West Ham United will be keen to drive home their lead from the first leg to defeat AZ Alkmaar and secure a spot in the final of the UEFA Conference League final.
West Ham United will be keen to secure a spot in the final of this season’s UEFA Conference League when they take on AZ Alkmaar in the semi-final second leg on Thursday.
David Moyes’s side might be struggling in the Premier League but have been impressive in Europe. Having fallen at the same stage in last season’s UEFA Europa League, they will now be keen to go at least one better albeit in the third tier of continental European football.
With the Hammers more or less safe from relegation, they can now focus their attention to secure a first European Cup since the Intertoto title in 1999. Winning it will not just secure them a spot in next season’s Europa League but also give the fans something to celebrate in an otherwise poor season.
Alkmaar have never won a single European trophy, only making a final once – the 1981 UEFA Cup/Europa League final. They got off to a good start by taking the lead in the first leg in London only for Said Benrahma and Michail Antonio to turn the tie on its head.
With away goals no more a concern, all West Ham need to do is avoid defeat to secure the tie. Alkmaar will be buoyed by the home support and will be keen to drive forward at every given opportunity. West Ham’s strength lies in the counter and this could very well work in their favour.
AZ Alkmaar currently sits in the fourth spot in the Eredivisie and have more or less secured a return to the Europa Conference League next season. Unless they can usurp the third spot from Ajax Amsterdam, winning the Conference League remains the only way they can qualify for next season’s Europa League.
It promises to be a highly charged game with much on the line. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.
Team News & Tactics
Last training ✔️#AZ #azwhu #UECL | @edvandepol
— AZ (@AZAlkmaar) May 17, 2023
The Dutch side have enjoyed a rather fine league campaign and now have the chance to secure a first-ever European crown. While home support should prove to be an advantage, the Kaaskoppen will be without a few senior stars who are out injured.
Goalkeeper Sem Westerveld and former Premier League star Bruno Martins Indi are dealing with knee and hip issues, ruling them out of the game. It is not all bad news as Dani de Wit and Jesper Karlsson are both in the fray to feature.
Pantelis Hatzidiakos was suspended for the weekend but should be restored to the lineup against West Ham. Alkmaar are likely to have more possession on the night and the aim will be for them to be freely flexible going forward.
A 4-2-3-1 formation is likely to be the flavour of the day, with former Brighton goalkeeper Mathew Ryan in goal. He will be protected by the centre-back duo of Pantelis Chatzidiakos and Sam Beukema, with Yukinari Sugawara and Milos Kerkez out on the wings. The former is excellent going forward and it is likely that most of Alkmaar’s attacks come down his wing.
Tijjani Reijnders is expected to form the double-pivot alongside Jordy Clasie and will offer the base for the attacking players to cause damage further upfield. Jens Odgaard has impressed since arriving at the club last summer and will work alongside Sven Mijnans and Myron van Brederode to prise open the Hammers’ defence.
24-year-old Vangelis Pavlidis is the club’s top scorer this season and should lead the attack on the night. He has also played a pivotal role in their run to the semis and will expect him to make a difference on the night.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ryan; Sugawara, Beukema, Hatzidiakos, Kerkez; Clasie, Reijnders; Odgaard, Mijnans, Van Brederode; Pavlidis
West Ham United
The Premier League side go into the game with a one-goal lead from the first leg. West Ham will in all likelihood adopt a safety-first approach, focusing on counterattacks to catch Alkmaar off guard.
They will be without striker Gianluca Scamacca who is still out injured. Michail Antonio and Angelo Ogbonna are expected to be back in contention after missing the weekend’s game against Brentford.
Vladimir Coufal is also back in training but appears unlikely to take to the field in such a crucial game sans match fitness. Moyes also rested several of his top players against Brentford, saving them for the tie. There is little doubt as to where his current priorities lie at the moment.
A first look at AZ Stadion for our Hammers 👀 pic.twitter.com/eFlt5jIyPK
— West Ham United (@WestHam) May 17, 2023
West Ham are also likely to deploy in a 4-2-3-1 formation that should sit a little deeper than that of Alkmaar. Alphonse Areola’s gaffe led to Alkmaar’s opener in the first leg but he is expected to start the game in goal.
Kurt Zouma and Nayef Aguerd will form the centre-back pairing, with Thilo Kehrer and Aaron Cresswell holding the fort out wide. The latter will be keen to make amends for his sending-off in the Europa League semi-final last year and is a player who needs to keep his cool.
Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek will hold the fort in midfield, connecting the defence to the attack. Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma should be deployed on the wings with Lucas Paqueta serving as the number ten. With Scamacca absent, Michail Antonio looks set to lead the attack.
With pace on the counter, one would not bet against the Hammers catching Alkmaar off guard. Much will depend on Soucek and Rice’s ability to win the ball back on a regular basis.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Areola; Kehrer, Zouma, Aguerd, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Bowen, Paqueta, Benrahma; Antonio
- West Ham United could become the first English side to make it to the final of the competition.
- Alkmaar have won only two of their past 15 European meetings with Premier League sides (D5 L8).
- West Ham United have progressed from all nine of their previous European knockout ties where they won the first leg.
- West Ham United have never made it to the final of a major European competition except for the Intertoto Cup in the Premier League era.
- Alkmaar could become the second Dutch side to make it to the final of the Conference League.
Player to Watch
The English international is enjoying a below-par season by his standards but remains a credible threat going forward for the Hammers. Possessing pace and power, Bowen will have a key role in advancing the ball against Alkmaar.
West Ham are likely to absorb pressure before mounting a counter-attack. The focus will be to get it to Michail Antonio in space and Bowen has a good understanding of the striker’s movement. Also capable of taking it himself, the winger will be Alkmaar’s biggest threat.
AZ Alkmaar 1-1 West Ham United (West Ham United to win 3-2 on aggregate)
The onus is on the Dutch giants to get a result and this should work in West Ham’s favour. The longer West Ham can keep the home side at bay, the easier their job. Alkmaar are likely to throw bodies forward and should leave space behind them for the Hammers stars to exploit.
West Ham will be glad to cede possession as long as Alkmaar cannot work their way into their box. More so, several of Moyes’s stars will be fitter having been given a breather at the weekend. A scoring draw appears the most likely result on the night.
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