France international Dimitri Payet is set to make his return from an ankle injury in the new year, West Ham manager Slaven Bilic said on Wednesday.
The former Marseille attacking midfielder was expected to be out until February after sustaining the injury in last month's 1-1 draw with Everton.
But Bilic says the 28-year-old's recovery is going ahead of schedule and he could be involved as early as the league match against Liverpool on January 2.
"It is good news with Dimitri as he is ahead of schedule, so he should train with us after the Villa game or the Southampton game," Bilic said.
"He is training with the fitness coaches and he might be involved in the Liverpool game which is a big boost.
"At the beginning we thought he would be back in February but he is way ahead of schedule and it is not that bad. His ankle is very good -- it is stable -- so it is great news if it goes like this."
West Ham have drawn their last four matches and have not won since beating Chelsea 2-1 in October, drawing five and losing two of their seven matches since.
They travel to Aston Villa on Saturday before hosting Southampton two days later.
Payet made an impressive start to life in the Premier League this season, scoring five goals in his first 12 league matches before injury derailed him.