West Ham United have one foot in the UEFA Conference League quarter-finals ahead of their Last 16 second leg vs AEK Larnaca.

Premier League side West Ham United welcome Cypriot side AEK Larnaca to London for the second leg of their UEFA Conference League round of 16 tie on Thursday night.

The Hammers go into the clash as favourites and hold a 2-0 lead from the first leg. It might be Europe’s third-tier competition. But the campaign does offer the West Ham fans a welcome distraction from their relegation dogfight.

The Londoners face the very real prospect of relegation unless results on the domestic front pick up. However, at least for a few more days the players and fans can dream of continental glory. Having come close to making last season’s Europa League final, the Hammers will be keen to go at least one better in the Conference League.

With a hundred per cent win rate in the competition this season, West Ham are the early trendsetters to secure the title. Apart from Lazio, Villarreal or OGC Nice, at least on paper, David Moyes can fancy his chances. With a two-goal lead to protect, the ball is in their court on Thursday.

Larnaca have already defeated Partizan Belgrade and SC Dnipro-1 in Europe this season and can prove to be a challenging side on their day. The second leg could have looked quite different had they been as clinical as the Hammers at home last week.

The Cypriot giants are also doing well in their domestic league and trail top-placed APOEL by a measly three points. Upsetting the odds to down West Ham could give them the impetus to set up a strong finish at the business end of the season.

The Hammers have shown a lack of fighting spirit this season and could cave should pressure be applied. Should Larnaca score the first goal, a warning light would ring out at the London Stadium. On paper, West Ham are the heavy favourites, but the tendency to become their own worst enemy could once again make life difficult for Moyes and co.

The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

West Ham United

Midfielder Flynn Downes is suspended for the tie after picking up his third yellow card of the competition this season in the first leg. David Moyes is expected to have an otherwise fully fit squad to choose from.

With the match against Manchester City postponed, the clash against Larnaca will be West Ham’s final game this March. With over a fortnight to go before they next take to the field against Southampton, Moyes has the licence to name a strong side on Thursday.

A 4-2-3-1 formation appears to be the preference, with Alphonse Areola starting in goal. Angelo Ogbonna should partner Nayef Aguerd in central defence, with Ben Johnson and Aaron Creswell patrolling the flanks.

Declan Rice has been one of the shining lights for West Ham and will partner with Tomas Soucek in the double pivot. The duo will aim to free up the trio of Fabio Fornals, Said Benrahma and Manuel Lanzini to cause havoc further upfield.

Gianluca Scamacca is expected to return to the lineup and will have a point to prove to Moyes. Unless the Italian star can rediscover his scoring boots, there is every reason to believe he will end up in the same position as Sebastien Haller.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Areola; Johnson, Ogbonna, Aguerd, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Fornals, Lanzini, Benrahma; Scamacca

West Ham United have one foot in the UEFA Conference League quarterfinals ahead of their last 16 second leg vs AEK Larnaca.

AEK Larnaca

Larnaca are currently going through a poor run of form and have won just one of their last six matches across all competitions. They go into the match as underdogs and have little to gain from adopting a safety-first approach.

Jose Luis Oltra will welcome back Angel Garcia and Pere Pons as he plots the improbable with the Cypriot giants. Hope could be renewed should Larnaca score first, but should the Hammers find the net, it could be all but curtains for the visitors. Oltra is likely to deploy his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Kenan Piric in goal. The back four is likely to consist of Ismael Casas, Hrvoje Milicevic, Nenad Tomovic and Angel Garcia.

Gus Ledes and Pere Poms will have to be at their best to prevent Rice and Soucek from running the game. Games are often won and lost in the midfield, and the Larnaca duo certainly cannot afford to be shoddy.

Roberto Rosales and Marin Jakolis will provide the width on the flanks, with Oier Sanjurjo playing the number 10 role. It is a curious role for a player who is largely a defensive midfielder. Rafa Lopes should lead the line and will look to catch Ogbonna cold at the back.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Piric; Casas, Milicevic, Tomovic, Garcia; Ledes, Pons; Rosales, Sanjurjo, Jakolis; Lopes

West Ham United have one foot in the UEFA Conference League quarterfinals ahead of their last 16 second leg vs AEK Larnaca.

Key Stats

  • The first-leg clash between both teams was their first meeting and ended with West Ham United winning 2-0.
  • West Ham have won just two of their last eight matches in all competitions.
  • West Ham United have won all seven of their matches in the UEFA Conference League this season. They are the only side in the competition’s history to put up a seven-match winning streak.
  • Larnaca have won just one of their last six games in all competitions.
  • Neither West Ham United nor Larnaca have won a European trophy of any kind.

Player to Watch

Gianluca Scamacca

Embed from Getty Images

The Italian striker’s move to London has not panned out as expected, and he has failed to get going. Seven goals from 26 games hardly redeems his reputation, and Moyes’s recent comments will not have helped either.

Coming back into the lineup, Scamacca has the opportunity to get himself back on the scoresheet and perhaps put together a strong run of results. Larnaca are not the most formidable of opposition, and a brace or more could very well be what Scamacca needs to avoid going down the track of Sebastien Haller at West Ham.


West Ham United 2-0 AEK Larnaca

Both teams are in poor form going into the game, but West Ham have the superior players on the roster. The Hammers have so far looked invincible in the competition and surely cannot throw away a two-goal lead at home. Moyes and co. will face sterner tests, but this should prove to be a regulation win for the Hammers as their European dream gathers steam.

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