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FA Cup quarterfinal draw

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By ESPN Staff

Hitzlsperger closer to return

Thomas Hitzlsperger will take his first step on what has been a long and arduous journey back to fitness on Wednesday when he takes to the field for West Ham's reserves.

Hitzlsperger was a kay signing last summer, arriving from Italian giants Lazio on a free transfer in the hope that he could link up with Scott Parker at the heart of the West Ham midfield. After starring in a successful pre-season, the former Aston Villa midfielder was denied his Hammers debut when he pulled his calf while playing for Germany against Denmark in August.

He returned to training eight weeks later but suffered the agony of having the muscle come off the bone completely, ruling him out for four months. The Hammers have struggled without him and currently sit bottom of the Premier League after Sunday's 1-0 defeat to relegation rivals Birmingham.

Manager Avram Grant will be looking to ease Hitzlsperger back into action given the serious nature of his injury, but the Germany international has already set his sights on helping the Hammers out of the relegation zone and is looking forward to playing some part in the reserves' game at West Brom.

"I had a tough time behind me but it's all looking good at the moment and I want to improve, first of all to be fully fit and then to help the team to stay in this league,'' Hitzlsperger told West Ham's official website.

"Although I haven't played yet for the club, I am looking forward to the first game playing in the West Ham United shirt and hopefully it will be soon.''

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