West Ham United will be aiming to extend their lead at the top of the UEFA Europa League Group H when they play hosts to Rapid Wien this midweek.

Matchday 2 of the group stages of the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League take place on Thursday night and West Ham United will be looking to continue their winning start in the competition when they face Rapid Wien at the London Stadium.

Having qualified for the competition after finishing sixth in the Premier League last term, West Ham made a fine start with a 2-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb a fortnight ago. Since then, David Moyes & co. have won two of their three games in all competitions (L1), eliminating Manchester United from the Carabao Cup before beating Leeds United 2-1 in the Premier League this past weekend. And, the manager will be hoping for more of the same from his troops.

Rapid Wien made their way to the group stages of the Europa League through the qualifiers, seeing off challenges from Anorthosis and Zorya Luhansk. However, things did not start well for the Austrian outfit as they were handed a 1-0 defeat by Genk on Matchday 1. Their form since has not been impressive either, with two losses in three games, including their latest one against Sturm Graz. Manager Dietmar Kuhbauer will be hoping for a better display in London.

Ahead of this exciting match set to come our way on Thursday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

West Ham United

Ryan Fredericks has been ruled out of the contest after picking up an injury against Manchester United in the cup tie last week. In addition, fellow right-back Vladimir Coufal is also a doubt for Thursday’s game, potentially posing an issue to David Moyes. Changes will be expected across the field, but the manager is expected to stick with his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

Alphonse Areola, who did well against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup last midweek, should get a run-out ahead of Lukasz Fabianski in goal for West Ham. With Fredericks out and Coufal a doubt, young Ben Johnson should get the nod at right-back but Aaron Cresswell is expected to hold on to his spot on the left. Craig Dawson and Issa Diop should pair up at the heart of the Hammers’ defence.

The central midfield duo of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek is critical for West Ham’s gameplay and should, thus, be retained in the side against the Austrian outfit. There will, however, be changes in the final third of the pitch, with Manuel Lanzini expected to get a game as the No. 10 from where he will look to provide a goal threat while creating chances for his teammates.

Summer signing Nikola Vlasic ought to get a run-out as well, potentially from the left flank while Andriy Yarmolenko should feature on the right wing, with Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma all being options from the bench. Michail Antonio remains the sole choice to lead the line for Moyes’ side.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Areola; Johnson, Dawson, Diop, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Yarmolenko, Lanzini, Vlasic; Antonio

Rapid Wien

Christopher Dibon, Richard Strebinger, Oliver Strunz and Lion Schuster are all sidelined with injuries for Rapid Wien and will play no part in London on Thursday night. Manager Dietmar Kuhbauer is expected to set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Paul Gartler, who will be hoping to keep Michail Antonio & co. away.

Leo Greiml and Maximilian Hofmann will form the centre-back partnership who will have their hands full containing the pace and power of Antonio while Maximilian Ullmann ought to line up at left-back, where Andriy Yarmolenko could make life difficult for him. Filip Stojkovic should start at right-back for the visitors.

Emanuel Aiwu and Srdjan Grahovac ought to line up in the midfield pivot positions. The duo should largely stay deep and play behind the ball to try and keep West Ham at bay while trying to release the two wingers, Kelvin Arase and Marco Grull, to try and exploit the Hammers on the break.

Ercan Kara and Taxiarchis Fountas should form the strike-partnership for the Austrian giants.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Gartler; Stojkovic, Greiml, Hofmann, Ullmann; Arase, Aiwu, Grahovac, Grull; Kara, Fountas

Key Stats

  • This will be the very first match between these two sides in European competition, with West Ham facing Austrian opposition for the first time.
  • Rapid Wien have lost four of their five away games against English sides in European competition, winning the other game 3-2 against Aston Villa side despite trailing with 12 minutes to go.
  • West Ham have won 12 of their 17 home matches in major European competition (D2 L3), although they have failed to score in either of their last two such matches (0-0 vs FCSB in November 1999 and 0-1 vs Palermo in September 2006).
  • Rapid Wien have lost 18 of their 26 away games in the UEFA Europa League to date (W5 D3), with their last away game in this competition also coming against English opponents – a 1-4 defeat against Arsenal in the group stages last season.
  • West Ham United have lost just one of their eight games in the 2021/22 season (W5 D2).

Player to Watch

Declan Rice

One of the best central midfielders in England, the 22-year-old Rice has grown into a pivotal figure for West Ham over the past few years. His presence in the middle of the park allows West Ham to cut out attacks and spring forward at pace on the break, while the England international is also starting to become a bigger presence going forward himself.

Indeed, Rice completed 53 of his 54 pass attempts on MD1 against Dinamo Zagreb (98%), including all 32 of the passes he made in the opposition half (100%), while scoring a goal as well. It just goes on to show the measure of control he provides the Hammers and Thursday, he will need to be at the top of his game again if the east London giants are to ease past their Austrian opponents to grab another victory in the Europa League.

Prediction

West Ham United 2-0 Rapid Wien

West Ham United head into the game on the back of two big wins against Manchester United and Leeds. They have lost just one game so far this season – a game which they could have easily drawn if not for a late penalty miss. They have looked solid and organised across the field, which makes them tough to beat.

Rapid Wien, meanwhile, are going through a torrid phase and confidence will be low after four losses in six games in all competitions. Considering the contrasting form of the two teams, David Moyes & co. go into the game as the favourites. Playing in front of a boisterous home support should only add to their confidence, which is why The Hard Tackle is predicting a comfortable win for the Irons.

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