West Ham United will look to make it back-to-back wins in the UEFA Europa Conference League when they square off with Silkeborg at JYSK Park on Thursday.
West Ham United returns to action following the postponement of the full Premier League matchday at the weekend. The Hammers continue their Europa Conference League campaign with a trip to Danish side Silkeborg on Thursday night, knowing the hosts are no pushovers and could prove to be a banana skin if taken lightly.
Silkeborg tumbled to the third tier of European football after losing to Helsinki in their Europa League qualifier earlier this summer. They were defeated 1-0 by Belgium giants Anderlecht in their Conference League group opener, but it is worth noting that the Danes dominated possession, albeit without troubling much, and were only undone by a late penalty from Wolves loanee Fabio Silva.
They returned to winning ways at the weekend, as they beat Aarhus Gymnastikforening 1-0 to move up to third in the Danish Superliga. Silkeborg play on an artificial surface at their new little 10,000-seater JYSK Park stadium, and the minnows will hope that they can pull off a big scalp by taking down Premier League side West Ham United.
Meanwhile, David Moyes’ troops overturned a first-half deficit to beat Romanian side FCSB 3-1 in their group opener last Thursday at the London Stadium, on a night they were behind for much of the contest.
Moyes fielded a relatively strong team in West Ham’s matchday one victory over FCSB last week, and it is already evident that the Irons are aiming to go all the way in the Conference League this season in order to get an instant promotion back to Europe’s second-tier competition, the Europa League.
The Irons are in good shape ahead of their trip to Denmark, having had the weekend off, which came as a blessing in disguise as Moyes has had plenty of time on the training ground with his side after a somewhat slow start to the new Premier League campaign. Ahead of their first-ever meeting with Silkeborg, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both sides.
Team News & Tactics
Silkeborg head coach Kent Nielsen is expected to have two absences, with Alexander Lind nursing a broken foot and Gustav Dahl sidelined due to a concussion. Silkeborg sets up in a 4-3-3 system. They like to control vast amounts of possession and attack through a slow buildup involving many short and crisp passes.
As shown in their UECL opener against Anderlecht last week, they lack a killer pass to offer a serious threat in the final third. They were dreadful defensively and were shaky at the back, which they just could not afford against West Ham.
Their problems stem from their defensive shape as they try to maintain a high line, but that leaves them exposed on transitions, and a side of West Ham’s counter-attacking threat will punish those mistakes all day long.
Nielsen will probably name the same starting XI that won 1-0 at the weekend, with Nicolai Larsen taking his place between the sticks. Tobias Salquist and Andre Calisir pick themselves up at the heart of central defence, flanked by Lukas Engel and Oliver Sonne in respective full-back positions.
The Danish head coach will opt for a midfield of Anders Klynge, Mark Brink, and Stefan Thordarson. All three are very comfortable on the ball, allowing Silkeborg dominate possession in midfield.
Towering former SC Paderborn and Aston Villa striker Niklas Helenius will lead the line for the hosts, with wingers Kasper Kusk and Sebastian Jorgensen hoping to engineer some meaningful openings in the final third.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Larsen; Sonne, Salquist, Calisir, Engel; Thordarson, Klynge, Brink; Jorgensen, Helenius, Kusk
West Ham United
West Ham boss David Moyes shuffled the pack from the off last mid-week but was forced to make several key changes and bring on a few big hitters to get the job done. Given that the Irons were not in action at the weekend, it will be interesting to see how strong a team Moyes decides to deploy on Thursday night, ahead of Sunday’s trip to Everton and knowing the risks of playing on an artificial pitch.
Having said that, the Hammers boss now has considerable depth in his squad after their summer splash, and the visitors can make changes to their starting XI without significantly compromising on quality, with most of the new signings starting to settle in nicely.
Moyes will probably revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation after utilising a 4-3-3 against FCSB last time out, and the Scot is boosted by no fresh injury concerns. In goal, Alphonse Areola should get the nod, with his position as the cup goalkeeper continuing from last season.
Angelo Ogbonna working hard ahead of our trip to Denmark. pic.twitter.com/M435SY4OMJ
— West Ham United (@WestHam) September 12, 2022
There are still several injury issues in defence, with Nayef Aguerd sidelined due to a long-term injury, while Craig Dawson is not fully fit yet. However, Angelo Ogbonna is back available and should start in Europe once again alongside Thilo Kehrer to preserve Kurt Zouma for the Everton game.
Emerson should start on the left, while Harrison Ashby could get a chance to impress at right-back in light of the injury absence of Aaron Cresswell and the poor form of Vladimir Coufal. Flynn Downes and Declan Rice worked well together last time out and could keep their positions in the middle of the park as a double pivot.
Maxwel Cornet should also keep his place in attack after impressing in his last couple of appearances for the Hammers. Another summer arrival, Brazilian Lucas Paqueta, will also be pushing for a start in his preferred attacking midfielder role.
On the right, Pablo Fornals should come in for Said Benrahma after the latter’s poor display against FCSB. Finally, Michail Antonio will likely get the nod over Gianluca Scamacca to spearhead the West Ham attack after scoring in last week’s 3-1 win.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Areola; Ashby, Kehrer, Ogbonna, Emerson; Rice, Downes; Fornals, Paqueta, Cornet; Antonio
- The Danish outfit are winless in their last nine games in European competition, dating back to 1998.
- Silkeborg are on a run of three defeats in their last four matches in all competitions (W1).
- The hosts’ attack has been particularly weak recently. They have scored just two goals in their last four games.
- West Ham have suffered just two losses in their last eight European away games and are on a run of three wins from five in all competitions.
- West Ham’s away record this season has been mixed, with the Hammers winning two and losing two of the four games played away from the London Stadium.
Player to Watch
West Ham United summer signing Flynn Downes has been lauded by some sections of the media and the fans after his brilliant display against FCSB last mid-week. The 23-year-old looked comfortable and confident on the ball, distributing play impressively whilst not being shy about putting in the hard graft and covering every blade of the grass and getting stuck into the opponents.
Hammer. ⚒ pic.twitter.com/JxaZy7wn6a
— West Ham United (@WestHam) September 13, 2022
This allowed Rice to be more effective in the middle third and initiate attacks. Tomas Soucek has responded to widespread criticism in recent weeks by turning up performances reminiscent of his debut season in East London.
However, it is difficult to deny that Downes offers so much more on the ball than the Czech, and with Moyes’ trying to switch to a more possession-based style of football, the former Swansea City youngster could play a key role in that. If Downes produces a similar display here, it will not be long before he starts a Premier League game alongside Rice.
Silkeborg 0-2 West Ham United
Needless to say, West Ham are the overwhelming favourites to win this tie as they head to Silkeborg. The home side have won only two of their last eight games in all competitions, including a defeat to local rivals Viborg, whom West Ham thrashed 6-1 on aggregate in the UECL playoffs.
The hosts are a good enough team to make West Ham work for all three points, and they may cause a fair few problems playing in front of their home support and on artificial turf, but they will need to play out of their skins to get anything out of this game against a far superior opposition.
A high-quality Hammers side and the high-caliber personnel in their attack should prove too hot to handle for the hosts. The Irons’ Premier League quality should come to the fore on their trip to Denmark, and the Hard Tackle predicts that they will register a comfortable 2-0 win at Silkeborg this mid-week.