West Ham United will be aiming to protect their perfect record in the UEFA Europa League when they host Belgian outfit KRC Genk on Thursday night.

West Ham United will be looking to make it three wins in three games in the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League when they lock horns with KRC Genk in a Group H encounter at the London Stadium this week.

West Ham have enjoyed a perfect start to their Europa League campaign, registering two victories in two games against Dinamo Zagreb and Rapid Wien, scoring four goals in the process while letting in none. Seated at the top of Group H, David Moyes & co., who beat Everton 1-0 in the Premier League this past weekend, will be gunning to extend their strong record and take a step closer to the knockouts.

Genk, meanwhile, find themselves in the third spot in the group standings, with three points from two matches. The Belgian outfit began their Europa League campaign with a 1-0 win over Rapid Wien but were then hammered 3-0 by Dinamo Zagreb. John van den Brom’s side haven’t been in the best of form, losing their previous three matches, with the latest game ending in a 2-0 defeat to Charleroi.

A win would allow Genk to go level on points with West Ham, but it will be easier said than done. Ahead of what will be the first meeting between the two clubs, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both sets of squads.

Team News & Tactics

West Ham United

West Ham will continue to be without the services of Ryan Fredericks, while fellow right-back Vladimir Coufal is also a doubt due to a groin injury. Veteran midfielder Mark Noble is expected to be available for selection after missing the weekend clash with a hip problem. However, Alex Kral is ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus.

David Moyes is likely to make a few changes to the side that defeated Everton at the weekend. Alphonse Areola will step into the side, replacing Lukasz Fabianski in goal. The rest of the team ought to set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Craig Dawson and Issa Diop forming the centre-back pairing flanked by the full-back duo of Ben Johnson and Aaron Cresswell.

Declan Rice, who was the star of the show in Europe against Rapid Wien last time out, is a certain starter in the middle of the park. He is likely to be partnered by Tomas Soucek, who is fit and available for selection after suffering facial injuries against Everton that needed stitches. Meanwhile, Manuel Lanzini should take up the creative responsibilities starting as the No. 10.

Flanking him on the night should be Andriy Yarmolenko and Nikola Vlasic, who will look to create opportunities for the main striker, Michail Antonio, while posing a goal threat themselves. Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen will be options from the bench for the home team.

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

KRC Genk

The visitors will be without defender Daniel Munoz who is suspended after being sent off in the previous game against Dinamo Zagreb. Apart from him, Genk have no other absentees for their trip to east London, and manager John van den Brom will be hoping to field his strongest possible XI and get his team back on the winning track.

Genk will line up in a 4-3-3 formation at the London Stadium, with Maarten Vandevoordt guarding the goal. Angelo Preciado and Gerardo Arteaga ought to be the two full-backs who will have the licence to get forward and join up in attack while Carles Cuesta and Jhon Lucumi form the centre-back pairing.

Carel Eiting is likely to slot in as the deepest of the three central midfielders and look to shield the backline, with support coming from captain Bryan Heynen. Kristian Thorstvedt will be the third midfielder for the visiting team, with the 22-year-old tasked with providing the attacking impetus from the centre of the park.

Theo Bongonda and Junya Ito should be the two wide players who will be in charge of feeding the chances for star striker Paul Onuachu, who interestingly is a transfer target for West Ham United.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Vandevoordt; Preciado, Cuesta, Lucumi, Arteaga; Thorstvedt, Eiting, Heynen; Ito, Onuachu, Bongonda

Key Stats

  • West Ham and KRC Genk will face off in European competition for the first time. The Hammers last played against Belgian opposition in 1976 when they lost the Cup Winners’ Cup final against Anderlecht.
  • Genk have lost both of their away matches against English opponents to date – versus Chelsea (5-0 in 2011/12) and Liverpool (2-1 in 2019/20).
  • West Ham manager David Moyes has only faced Belgian opposition once during his career when he led Everton to a defeat against Standard Liege in the UEFA Cup in 2008/09.
  • Genk have only been beaten four times in 19 away matches in the UEFA Europa League (W7 D8).
  • Declan Rice has scored in both of West Ham’s UEFA Europa League games this season.

Player to Watch

Michail Antonio

Embed from Getty Images

It has been another blistering start to the new season for Michail Antonio, who has already posted a tally of six goals and four assists from nine matches in all competitions. Given West Ham’s lack of options at the top, the 31-year-old is pretty much a certain starter on Thursday night as David Moyes looks to seal early qualification to the knockouts, which would then allow him to rotate his squad.

And, Antonio will be crucial to the Hammers’ chances of extending their fine run of form in Europe. His pace, power and physicality could prove to be a handful for the Genk defence to deal with on Thursday night.

Prediction

West Ham United 2-0 Genk

Genk are going through a torrid run of form, having lost three in three across all competitions. In fact, they have won just one of their last five matches. West Ham, in contrast, are enjoying an impressive spell and have made the perfect start to their European campaign. They have been solid at the back and are getting the job done in attack as well.

Given the way things are, it is hard to look past West Ham as the winners, especially considering that they will also be playing in front of their fans. The Hard Tackle predicts yet another 2-0 win in Europe for David Moyes & co. taking them closer to the knockouts.

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