Prague’s Fortuna arena will host only the second-ever UEFA Europa Conference League Final as Fiorentina take on West Ham United.
Fans of bigger clubs often look down upon the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League. These competitions may not hold much value in their eyes. But it represents a massive opportunity for these finalists to keep playing in Europe. And Fiorentina and West Ham United will clash in the final this week.
Fiorentina were last seen in a European final more than three decades ago when Juventus beat them in the 1990 UEFA Cup showpiece. It is a massive opportunity for La Viola to keep their objectives relevant and keep playing continental football.
Fiorentina’s eighth-placed finish was not good enough for them to secure qualification to Europa Conference League next season. However, they could move up to the Europa League by beating West Ham United in Prague. Antonin Barak’s late winner in extra time against a stubborn FC Basel side took them to this eventual place.
Fiorentina have one last hurdle in the form of West Ham United. David Moyes has endured a difficult season on and off the pitch. At one stage, the Hammers seemed destined to fight the relegation battle in the Premier League before surviving quite comfortably.
"They have got a great opportunity"
David Moyes spoke of the chance Wednesday presents for the players and the Club 🗣 pic.twitter.com/c7HZL98T05
— West Ham United (@WestHam) June 2, 2023
Due to the heavy spending last summer, David Moyes was under pressure to deliver results. Without those, his job has come under massive scrutiny, with many believing he could get the sack when the season ends. If that were the case, the Scotsman would like to end a massive trophy drought at West Ham, who have not won anything since the 1980 FA Cup.
While the Hammers were dismal in the Premier League, they have remained unbeaten in the Europa Conference League. They got to the Prague final owing to a stubborn performance away to AZ Alkmaar, a game decided by a late Pablo Fornals strike. Moyes will hope that was not the end of their journey as he would wish and pray for just one more.
Team News & Tactics
Vincenzo Italiano will bring many of his key players back in the fold following resting many of those for the latest Serie A game. Backup goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu seems out with an injury, but Nico Gonzalez should make it into the starting eleven after turning up fit.
— ACF Fiorentina (@acffiorentina) June 4, 2023
Gonzalez will provide support in the frontline, especially for the central striker and in-form Brazilian Arthur Cabal, who also netted twice against FC Basel. Antonin Barak could have a homecoming to his former ground and take part in the final, only if deemed fit.
Sofyan Amrabat and Rolando Mandragora would likely keep the double pivot in central midfield. Giacomo Bonaventura and Jonathan Ikone could complete the front four alongside Gonzalez and Cabral.
At the back, Italiano will likely choose his favoured back-four. Dodo will play right back, while captain Cristiano Biraghi marshall on from left back. In the centre, Lucas Martinez Wuarta and Nikal Milenkovic will hold the fort, hoping to keep the West Ham frontline quiet.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Terracciano; Dodo, Martinez Quarta, Milenkovic, Biraghi; Amrabat, Mandragora; Gonzalez, Bonaventura, Ikone; Cabral
West Ham United
David Moyes will tinker hard before selecting his starting eleven for the Prague final. Many of those players are automatic starters, including the in-demand Declan Rice and Michail Antonio. The other two could be Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek, with the duo returning to their homeland.
The Hammers are here! ⚒ pic.twitter.com/vuMsWtsDWz
— West Ham United (@WestHam) June 5, 2023
Gianluca Scamacca remains the only absentee for West Ham ahead of the showpiece event. Hence, Antonio will start and lead the line for the Hammers, while Rice and Soucek will keep hold of the midfield. Lucas Paqueta will start ahead of the midfield two in an advanced role behind the front three.
While Fornals proved his worth in the semifinals against Alkmaar, he must remain content with a place on the bench. Said Benrahma will play on the left side of the attack while Jarrod Bowen takes up the right wing slot.
At the back, Moyes might likely prefer to start with Thilo Kehrer ahead of Coufal at right-back. Nayef Aguerd and Kurt Zouma are the preferred duo to hold the central defence, while Aaron Cresswell will play from left-back.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Kehrer, Aguerd, Zouma, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Paqueta, Benrahma; Antonio
- Fiorentina are the top scorers in the UEFA Europa Conference League with 36 goals so far.
- Fiorentina have not featured in a European Final since the 1990 UEFA Cup showpiece.
- Fiorentina have scored at least 3 goals in their last 6 European away games.
- West Ham United are unbeaten in this season’s Conference League.
- West Ham United last won a major trophy in the 1980 FA Cup.
Player to Watch
Some well-known names would take the pitch in Prague, but none more influential than Rice. It might even prove the midfielder’s last game in a Hammers shirt, and he would certainly want to give those fans something to cling to for years to come.
Tactically, it is quite an interesting battle that’s cultivating in the middle of the pitch. The head-to-head between Rice and Morrocan World Cup star Sofyan Amrabat could catch the eye. The England man would love to have the upper hand because those controlling that area might have a say in where the UEFA Europa Conference League trophy travels.
Fiorentina 1-2 West Ham United
No matter the quality of this tournament, the final seems like a tasty encounter between two talented sides. The top-scoring side will be taking on the unbeaten one, with both coming here with a massive point to prove and the intention to win.
We can hold a serious debate over the quality of these two sides. While there are some talented stars on both teams, it is all about who can influence the game in that one moment of magic, something we feel West Ham could do. Hence, the prediction goes with the Hammers winning this showpiece by a slender margin.