West Ham vs Chelsea can be huge step on Michail Antonio's path back to spotlight

Jack Rosser
Looking ahead | Michail Antonio is nearing the end of his journey back to West Ham spotlight: West Ham United via Getty Images

Michail Antonio is on the long road back to being a key figure at West Ham, and a London derby against Chelsea offers the chance to take a huge step on his journey.

The forward, who two years ago filled the talismanic role now held by Marko Arnautovic, has endured a torrid injury run and fell on the wrong side of David Moyes as he was looking to get back into the side.

It has been a frustrating journey from the brink of the England squad to the brink of a move to Crystal Palace over the summer.

"Antonio had a long injury. He is a player that always wants to improve so I am always talking to him," manager Manuel Pellegrini said.

"He is a very useful player, because he is very fast and the way he played in the last minute when Marko couldn’t continue is the way he must play every game.

"Maybe it is not only his confidence. He needs to work the whole week completely because he couldn't do it for a long time. Now, he is working well and working that way he will recover."

Antonio is now back working well through an entire week and, despite having seen the emergence of Arnautovic (as well as the arrival of Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko) during his absence from the spotlight, Sunday's derby presents quite the opportunity.

(Getty Images)

Arnautovic is winning his race to beat a knee injury in order to start against Maurizio Sarri's side, but Antonio may well be a better option than either Yarmolenko or Anderson alongside him.

For all the issues the former Nottingham Forest man has faced he, like so few of the summer arrivals, understands the intensity and meaning of a London derby against Chelsea, playing in four and losing just one - playing as a right-back on that occasion.

A starring role in a tantalising encounter against Sarri's side would signal a significant step on his route back to West Ham stardom.