West Ham United will be looking to book their spot in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa Conference League when they welcome KAA Gent to the London Stadium for the second leg of their quarter-final tie on Thursday night.

Both West Ham and Gent will be looking to reach the semi-finals of the Conference League for the first time ever. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Gent, we are headed for a second leg at the London Stadium with the tie perfectly poised. The first match was pretty even, although Gent had a lot more shots and dominated the game.

West Ham are experiencing a terrible season in the Premier League, especially compared to the last two when they finished 6th and 7th, respectively. This season, they flirted with the relegation zone, but with seven points in the previous four matches, the Hammers have moved into 15th place in the Premier League, four points clear of the relegation zone but with a better goal difference.

The Hammers earned a point against the league leaders, Arsenal, in their most recent encounter. There is still work to be done to ensure another Premier League season, and winning this competition is their only route into European football next term.

The hosts’ Europa Conference League campaign has been a nice distraction from their Premier League struggles, with the Hammers looking to end a 43-year silverware drought with their first European title since their Cup Winners’ Cup success in 1965.

Gent are having a similarly difficult season in comparison to the last two years in the domestic league. They are currently tied for fourth place with Club Brugge one round before the end of the regular phase. Furthermore, sixth-place St. Liege is only one point behind them, so the last game will determine whether they finish fourth or fifth.

Fourth is the final qualifying spot for the Championship Group. They are only in that place on goal difference, so they could end up in the Europa Conference League again next season unless they win it this time.

Team News and Tactics

West Ham United

Coach David Moyes has received a lot of criticism for his dismal Premier League performance, but fortunately for him, the club does not wish to fire him during the season. Still, staying in the league is unlikely to be enough to maintain his job next season. However, he could still be in charge of West Ham next season if they stay in the league, win the Europa Conference League, and qualify for the Europa League.

Gianluca Scamacca is the only injured player on the West Ham roster. The 24-year-old striker has been excellent in Europe, though he is sidelined with a knee injury here. Two central defenders, Angelo Ogbonna and Nayef Aguerd, missed the last game against Arsenal due to injuries, but they should not miss any additional games.

Moyes has switched to a 4-3-3 formation lately, and may well stick with it here. Alphonse Areola comes back into the lineup in goal to continue his record as one of only two players to start all 11 games in Europe this season.

Aguerd could come into the starting XI to play alongside Kurt Zouma at the heart of the back four, with Emerson coming in at left-back and Vladimir Coufal keeping his place on the right. Lucas Paqueta delivered a decent performance against Arsenal in a midfield three, so he will continue as a left-sided midfielder alongside Declan Rice and Flynn Downes here.

Michail Antonio may be struggling in the domestic top flight, but he has truly enjoyed playing in the Europa Conference League this season.

The Jamaica international has netted four times in six matches in the Hammers’ Europa Conference campaign and is set to lead the line again. Said Benrahma and Jarrod Bowen’s pace could be a key outlet for the visitors, especially if they look to play on the counter-attack.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Areola; Coufal, Zouma, Aguerd, Palmieri; Downes, Rice, Paqueta; Bowen, Antonio, Benrahma


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Gent will play Oostende in the most important league game of the season after the West Ham encounter. They will finish fourth and qualify for the Championship playoff if they win. The Buffalos will be without the services of midfielders Andrew Hjulsager and Sulayman Marreh and forward Darko Lemajić, although all three of them are not usual starters.

Coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck looks set to deploy a 3-4-1-2 system that could get the best out of his attacking players, especially highly-rated striker Gift Orban, who has scored 14 goals in 14 games for the Belgian outfit, and famously scored a quick-fire hat-trick in the last round of the Conference League.

Hugo Cuypers, who is the Belgian Pro League’s top-scorer with 19 goals, will partner Orban to form a deadly strike force supplied by attacking midfielder Hyun-Seok Hong, who will slot into the No. 10 role.

The midfield pivot is likely to feature Sven Kums and Julien De Sart, who will not only have to get the better of a well-drilled West Ham midfield but also one that isn’t afraid to get physical when it’s needed against the Premier League opponent.

On the flanks, Alessio Castro-Montes is once again likely to get the nod, whereas Malick Fofana will man the other wing. However, we are expecting one change in central defence with Jordan Torunarigha replacing Nurio Fortuna at left centre-back, thus completing the back three alongside Kamil Piatkowski and Joseph Okumu, which will look to protect Davy Roef in goal.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Roef; Okumu, Piatkowski, Torunarigha; Castro-Montes, De Sart, Kums, Fofana; Hong; Cuypers, Orban

Key Stats

  • West Ham have won ten of their 11 UEFA Europa Conference League games this season.
  • West Ham have lost just one of their previous eight games against Belgian clubs in European competitions (W4 D3) and are unbeaten at home in such matches (W2 D1).
  • Gent have only won one of their last seven games on the road in the UEFA Europa Conference League (D2 L4), although that did come in their most recent trip – thrashing Turkish outfit Istanbul Basaksehir 4-1 in the previous round.
  • West Ham have lost one of their last eight home games, a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Newcastle United in what was an error-strewn performance from Moyes’ troops.
  • The Irons are the second-highest scoring team in the Conference League this season with a goal tally of 30, and have scored seven goals from set-piece situations; the joint-most in the competition this season along with Fiorentina.

Player to Watch

Jarrod Bowen

Embed from Getty Images

The 26-year-old wide-forward has established himself as one of the most important and valuable players for West Ham over the last few years, and this season has been no different.

While the whole attack has been disappointing, the Englishman remains a bright spark and leads his team in terms of goals scored and assists. He has 11 goals to his name across all competitions while also providing five assists.

Bowen’s pace and trickery could prove to be a handful for the Gent defence to handle. Add to it, his ability to cut onto his wicked left foot, and the visitors could have their hands full as he looks to steer his side to the next round.


West Ham United 2-0 Gent (West Ham to win 3-1 on aggregate)

West Ham United are becoming increasingly confident about escaping relegation to the Championship. They did well to get a point at home to Arsenal on Sunday and have won all of their home games in this season’s Europa Conference League. Still, for a club that was on the verge of making it into the Europa League final last season, it’s been an underwhelming season.

The Hammers can yet rescue the horrendous season with a continental trophy. And they would not want to waste it. Despite struggling in the first leg against Gent, the Hammers came away with a draw, setting them up nicely for the second leg in London.

Add to it the fact that Gent are not at their best, and have a dismal record on their European travels, and the Hard Tackle backs the hosts to continue the European adventure by dispatching the Belgian rivals 2-0 at home.

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