West Ham United will play Lyon in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg in what will be one of the biggest nights in the club’s history.
The London Stadium played host to one of West Ham’s best historic results during the previous round of the UEFA Europa League when West Ham United welcomed final hosts Sevilla for the second leg of their Last-16 encounter. And barely anyone could have predicted the beautiful drama which unfolded in the English capital.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Spain, Tomas Soucek’s first-half header brought West Ham level in the tie. The game looked set for penalties with ten or so minutes left of the extra time before Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko – amid all the struggles his country is going through – popped up with the decisive goal to send the Irons fans’ into euphoria.
The job Moyes has done at the London Stadium is nothing short of extraordinary. There has been a good feeling around the place over the past few seasons and the Scotsman deserves full credit for not only assembling a capable squad but also fostering a sense of unity at the club that had escaped supporters since relocating from the historic Upton Park.
But now everyone appears to be on the same page and heading in the right direction as they gear up to take on Olympique Lyon in the Europa League quarter-final. They enter this contest off the back of a narrow 2-1 win over Everton in the Premier League and are the favourites to progress past the French side across two legs. And should that happen, a potential glamorous semi-final tie with Barcelona could be on the cards.
Lyon breezed through their group with minimal fuss before knocking out a strong Porto side in the last round, although they needed a late winner to overcome Angers ahead of this encounter. Under Peter Bosz it has not exactly been plain sailing in Ligue 1, with Les Gones currently ailing down in ninth place. Although they boast some excellent individual quality, they have been on the decline of late.
While a late domestic resurgence still remains a possibility, the Europa League route represents Lyon’s best chance of returning to continental football next season, considering their mid-table obscurity in Ligue 1. So a lot is riding on Les Gones’ performances in this final stretch, or else Bosz’s managerial stint at Lyon might be in jeopardy.
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David Moyes will remain without the services of defender Angelo Ogbonna (knee). The West Ham United boss is sweating over the fitness of right-back Ben Johnson, who missed Sunday’s Premier League win over Everton due to a knock.
Manuel Lanzini, who did not take part against Everton after being involved in a car accident a few days prior, is suspended after the Argentina international was shown his third yellow card of the Europa League campaign in the Last-16 second-leg victory over Sevilla.
Moyes will opt for his usual 4-2-3-1 formation and is expected to deploy his strongest team, albeit with a couple of personnel tweaks from the last game. Alphonse Areola, who has majorly had his chances in cup competitions, is set to relegate Lukasz Fabianski to the bench this week, while Vladimir Coufal and Ryan Fredericks will be in contention to start at right-back if Johnson is not passed fit.
At left-back, Aaron Cresswell picks himself after scoring a spectacular long-range free-kick goal against Everton last time out. As for the central defensive unit, Kurt Zouma and Craig Dawson will pair up at the heart of the West Ham backline.
Declan Rice is a certain starter in the middle of the park, partnering up alongside Tomas Soucek. The duo will try to control the midfield battle and provide the Irons with much-needed forward thrust during transitional phases, with Rice’s driving runs being a particular highlight.
Jarrod Bowen will look to build on his goalscoring return last weekend, operating as an inverted inside forward. The English attacker will be supplemented by Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma as they form a potent trio slotting just behind hardworking marksman Michail Antonio, who will spearhead the West Ham attack.
Probable lineup (4-2-3-1): Areola; Fredericks, Dawson, Zouma, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Benrahma, Fornals; Antonio
Lyon’s treatment room has started to fill up again in recent weeks, as Peter Bosz remains without Lenny Pintor, Rayan Cherki and Sinaly Diomande for the long term due to injuries. The West Ham game may come too soon for midfielder Maxence Caqueret to recover in time from his knee injury. Bosz will set his team up in a similar formation to their opponents, with Les Gones lining up in a 4-2-3-1 shape in front of goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.
Jerome Boateng was fit to start Lyon’s 3-2 win over Angers at the weekend but was withdrawn after the hour mark as a precautionary measure. So he will start at the centre of the defence, partnering up with Castello Lukeba, while Malo Gusto and Emerson Palmieri should line up as the two full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively.
— Olympique Lyonnais 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@OL_English) April 6, 2022
Thiago Mendes and Tottenham Hotspur cast-off Tanguy Ndombele ought to form the midfield double-pivot. Lucas Paqueta should get the nod in the No. 10 role from where he will look to provide creativity and direct goal threat. He will be flanked by Houssem Aouar and Romain Faivre on the left and the right wings, respectively.
Lyon offered Brazilian attacker Tete a route out of Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk as an out-of-window signing last week and he ended up scoring the decisive goal on his debut last weekend. He will certainly hope to have enough minutes off the bench to make a major impact to force his way into the starting XI.
Cameroon striker Karl Toko Ekambi came down with a bout of illness late before the game against Angers and has not traveled to London with the squad. So, former Fulham man Moussa Dembele will be tasked to lead the line on his return to English soil. The Frenchman is in red-hot form at the moment, boasting nine goal contributions (7 Goals, 2 Assists) in his last ten games across all competitions.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lopes; Gusto, Boateng, Lukeba, Emerson; Mendes, Ndombele; Faivre, Paqueta, Aouar; Dembele
- This quarter-final first-leg marks the first competitive meeting between West Ham United and Lyon.
- Lyon are undefeated in their last eight Europa League matches (W6 D2).
- Lyon boast a seriously impressive record against clubs from England and are currently unbeaten in six matches against English sides, most recently upsetting Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2019/20.
- West Ham have not drawn in their past eight games and have maintained three clean sheets in their previous six home games (W5 D1).
- This will be West Ham’s fifth quarter-final appearance in European competitions. They have progressed on three of the previous four occasions.
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Bowen hit the ground running after coming back from a month out with a foot injury, netting the winner against Everton in the Premier League on Sunday. And his goal-scoring return comes as a huge boost to Irons’ faithful ahead of West Ham’s historic Europa League showdown with Lyon.
No other English player has more Premier League goal involvements (nine goals, eight assists) than the 25-year-old in 2021/22. With Michail Antonio enduring a rough patch up top, the onus will once again be on Bowen to provide much-needed goals in this tie.
West Ham United 2-1 Olympique Lyon
The Hammers recorded a famous victory over Sevilla in the last round of the Europa League and will fancy their chances of progressing to the semi-final as they take on Lyon. The hosts have been in terrific form at home recently, winning four games in a row and going undefeated in six.
Given the defensive fragility and inconsistencies of Lyon under Peter Bosz, The Hard Tackle predicts West Ham to come out on top, but it would be a huge surprise if they were able to kill the tie after only the first leg.