West Ham United have a tough assignment ahead as they take on Europa League experts Sevilla in a Round of 16 tie on Thursday.

West Ham are set to resume their UEFA Europa League campaign on Thursday as they lock horns with Sevilla. It will be a massive test for David Moyes, who has managed to guide the Londoners to a knockout stage of the Europa League for the first time in the club’s history.

After finishing sixth in the Premier League last term, West Ham looked imperious in the group stages of the Europa League. They topped Group H, finishing ahead of Dinamo Zagreb, Rapid Wien and Genk, which granted them a direct place in the Round of 16.

However, things are set to become more difficult as they take on a Sevilla team, widely regarded as one of the serial winners of the Europa League. The Spanish outfit have won four of the five previous seasons in which they have participated in the coveted competition, three of which came in back-to-back campaigns from 2014 to 2016.

This time around, Sevilla had to qualify for the Round of 16 through the knockout playoff round after being eliminated from the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. They narrowly beat Dinamo Zagreb in the playoffs, winning 3-2 on aggregate, with on-loan Manchester United forward Anthony Martial scoring one of the goals.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of their exciting clash at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan this midweek.

Team News & Key Stats

Sevilla

Sevilla are set to miss a host of key players heading into this game, including Diego Carlos. “We have many players absent, you can’t even count them because there are that many,” Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui said during the pre-match press conference.

Carlos has been ruled out due to injury, joining Karim Rekik, Fernando, Papu Gomez, Erik Lamela and Suso in the club’s long list of absentees. Thomas Delaney misses out due to suspension, leading to a major selection dilemma for coach Lopetegui.

Tactically, Sevilla are likely to deploy a 4-3-3, with Nemanja Gudelj in line to replace Delaney in the number six slot. But with Carlos and Rekik out of the equation in defence. Lopetegui will be forced to start with Gudelj at centre-back.

It would mean Ivan Rakitic may have to line up in defensive midfield instead. Joan Jordan and Oliver Torres could operate in a more advanced role. Their technical prowess could be vital in easing Sevilla’s transition play and evading West Ham’s second line of press.

As for the attack, Anthony Martial has been named in the squad, though his chances of starting remain uncertain. Given his lack of fitness, Lopetegui could deploy the front three of Jesus Corona, Rafa Mir and Lucas Ocampos.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bounou; Navas, Gudelj, Kounde, Acuna; Jordan, Rakitic, Torres; Corona, Mir, Ocampos

West Ham United

West Ham may not have to deal with a long list of absentees like their opponents. But they are without the services of key frontman Jarrod Bowen, whose pace and dynamism in the final third might have caused a plethora of problems for the Sevilla defence.

Nikola Vlasic is in line to replace the former Hull City winger as he looks to form West Ham’s creative trifecta alongside Manuel Lanzini and Pablo Fornals. The latter’s experience in Spanish football could be crucial in helping his team break down the opposition defence. Michail Antonio, meanwhile, will be tasked with spearheading the West Ham attack.

In midfield, David Moyes has been handed a massive boost as Declan Rice is reportedly winning the fitness battle ahead of the Sevilla clash. The English international is expected to lead his side on Thursday, forming the double-pivot alongside Tomas Soucek.

Moyes is unlikely to make too many changes in defence, with Ben Johnson the only player likely to make way for Ryan Fredericks. It won’t be surprising to see West Ham opting for a pendulating backline, though, with Fredericks and Fornals operating as wing-backs, with Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson and Aaron Cresswell forming the three-man defence.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Fredericks, Zouma, Dawson, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Vlasic, Lanzini, Fornals; Antonio

Key Stats

  • West Ham United will be Sevilla’s 11th different English opponent in European competitions. Sevilla are winless across their last three home matches against such sides, most recently losing 4-0 to Chelsea in the Champions League group stage last season.
  • West Ham’s meeting with Sevilla will be their first against Spanish opposition in European competitions in over 40 years since they won 6-4 on aggregate against Real Madrid Castilla in the first round of the 1980-81 Cup Winners’ Cup.
  • Sevilla have progressed from 29 of their last 31 knockout stage ties in the UEFA Cup/Europa League (94%), progressing from all three ties against English opponents in this time.
  • This is the latest stage West Ham have reached in a major European competition since the 1980/81 Cup Winners’ Cup when Dinamo Tbilisi eliminated them in the quarter-finals after they had dumped out FC Politehnica Timisoara in the Last 16.
  • Sevilla forward Anthony Martial has scored six goals against West Ham in all competitions for Manchester United, only scoring more against Everton (7) during his time at the club. This includes three goals in five cup matches.

Player to Watch

Michail Antonio

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26: Michail Antonio of West Ham United (L) takes the ball past Gary Cahill of Chelsea (R) during the EFL Cup fourth round match between West Ham United and Chelsea at The London Stadium on October 26, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The danger man for West Ham. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

West Ham’s quest to breach the Sevilla backline could be made easier by the absence of Diego Carlos and Karim Rekik. With Nemanja Gudelj likely to be forced into a centre-back role once again, expect Michail Antonio to enjoy a lot of freedom in the final third.

The Jamaican international has the speed and the strength to cause problems for the Sevilla defence that can appear susceptible to quick counter-attacks. While the absence of Jarrod Bowen will certainly be a major blow for the visitors, Antonio’s ability to find the back of the net remains an asset for the Hammers this midweek.

Prediction

Sevilla 1-1 West Ham United

Sevilla have built quite a reputation for being a defence-oriented team under Julen Lopetegui. Los Nervionenses can be extremely organised in European games, and despite underperforming in the Champions League this term, they are likely to dominate this encounter using their technical brilliance.

However, West Ham have enough firepower to cause problems to the Sevilla backline, especially with Diego Carlos out injured. As such, we are predicting a cagey affair, with both the teams likely to find the back of the net and finish with a stalemate.

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