Lyon play hosts to West Ham United in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-finals at the Groupama Stadium on Thursday night.

With the tie perfectly balanced following a 1-1 draw in London, Lyon and West Ham meet in their UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg tie at the Groupama Stadium on Thursday night. It is all to play for the Hammers in arguably the biggest game in the club’s recent history, where David Moyes’ side will try to reach the club’s first proper European semi-final in 46 years.

The Irons will make the trip to France on the back of a 2-0 Premier League defeat at Brentford on their own patch at the weekend, a massive dent in their bid to claim a top-four spot and a place in next season’s Champions League. But West Ham can still guarantee a place in Europe’s most prestigious club competition if they win the Europa League, and it would be silly to dismiss them against a Lyon side that has been inconsistent this season.

The Hammers were on the back foot in the first leg after Aaron Cresswell’s dismissal, but they showed great character to come away all square. Now, they face a difficult assignment in trying to topple the French club in their own backyard in order to reach the Europa League semi-finals.

Lyon salvaged a 1-1 draw with Strasbourg in Ligue 1 last weekend. They have won only one of their last six matches in all competitions (D4 L1), a 3-2 victory against Angers. Les Gones have endured a disappointing campaign so far and currently sit a lowly 10th in Ligue 1 with 46 points—ten points adrift of the final Champions League place.

With their chances of qualifying for Europe’s top-tier competition through league position gone, all their eggs are in the Europa League basket. Peter Bosz’s men have performed admirably in the Europa League this season. They triumphed in their group containing Rangers, Sparta Prague, and Brondby before a 2-1 aggregate win over Porto in the Last-16 stage.

Their unpredictability, individual talent and relatively more continental experience than their opponents make this tie a tricky assignment for the Hammers’ as they look to continue their historic run in the competition. The winners’ prize could be a potential meeting with Spanish heavyweights Barcelona in the semi-finals, although keep in mind that away goals do not count in this match.

Team News & Tactics

Olympique Lyon

Lyon’s draw against Strasbourg certainly came at a cost, with no fewer than three key players being forced off injured. Lyon’s first-choice goalkeeper, Anthony Lopes, was hooked off at the half-hour mark, while midfielders Tanguy Ndombele and Houssem Aouar were other casualties later on in the contest. But the latter two are expected to recover in time to be in contention for the West Ham encounter.

Bosz’s midfield woes are exacerbated by Maxence Caqueret’s knee injury, while Rayan Cherki, Lenny Pintor, and Sinaly Diomande all remain out of action. Midfielder Thiago Mendes is also nursing a knock but should be fit to feature, but star man Lucas Paqueta misses out through injury.

Bosz will stick to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation boasting a high-tempo pressing game and a lot of possession with an emphasis on attack. In the absence of Lopes, the 27-year-old German shot-stopper, Julian Pollersbeck, will be handed a rare chance to impress in between the sticks.

The whole back four that started against West Ham were rested over the weekend, so it is reasonable to assume they will be back here. Hence, Jerome Boateng and Castello Lukeba will form the centre-back partnership for Lyon, with Malo Gusto and Chelsea loanee Emerson Palmieri slotting in as the full-backs.

Mendes is expected to slot in as the No. 6 for Lyon, with Ndombele partnering him in the double pivot and providing a box-to-box presence. With Paqueta ruled out late before the game, Aouar should get the nod in the No. 10 role, from where he will look to provide creativity and goal threat.

Romain Faivre is another player that should come into the side, after being dropped out of the starting lineup against Strasbourg. The 23-year-old will pose a threat due to his ball progression and rapid acceleration down the right flank. Karl Toko Ekambi, who was on the scoresheet last weekend, should slot in on the left-wing while Moussa Dembele gets the nod as the main striker.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Pollersbeck; Gusto, Lukeba, Boateng, Emerson; Ndombele, Mendes; Faivre, Aouar, Toko Ekambi; Dembele

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West Ham United

West Ham boss David Moyes was dealt a massive blow in the club’s 2-0 defeat to Brentford at the weekend as defensive stalwart Kurt Zouma came off injured. The Frenchman has been ruled out for the Lyon clash due to a twisted ankle, while Angelo Ogbonna remains a long-term absentee with an ACL injury. Craig Dawson is also struggling with a nose problem but should be fit to start for the Hammers in Lyon.

Manuel Lanzini is also back from a suspension, but set-piece expert and first-choice left-back Aaron Cresswell is now suspended following his red card in the first leg. Meanwhile, captain Mark Noble faces a late fitness test for the Hammers as he recovers from an illness.

Moyes will opt for his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation and could be forced into making a couple of changes to the starting XI that took to the field in the reverse fixture against Lyon. Alphonse Areola will start in goal for the east Londoners. Down to bare-bones in central defence, Moyes must rethink his options with the error-prone Issa Diop in line to partner Craig Dawson.

Vladimir Coufal will take up his usual position at right-back, whereas Arthur Masuaku will be the enforced change at left-back. Declan Rice will form a double-pivot alongside the robust Tomas Soucek as they look to dictate the flow of the game from the middle of the park.

Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma will be the Hammers’ primary playmakers as they look to fashion inviting opportunities in the final third. Both will be required to put in strong performances if West Ham are to progress to the next round.

Jarrod Bowen’s pace and dynamism caused a plethora of problems for the Lyon defence in London. Moyes will hope for more of the same from his English talisman. Michail Antonio is the undisputed choice to spearhead the line for the Hammers as he looks to dominate the Lyon backline with his hold-up play, pace and power.

Probable lineup (4-2-3-1): Areola; Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Masuaku; Rice, Soucek; Bowen, Fornals, Benrahma; Antonio

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Key Stats

  • Lyon are undefeated in their last nine Europa League matches.
  • Lyon have drawn four of their previous five games in all competitions, while the Hammers have lost five of their last nine.
  • West Ham have lost five games in a row away from home, which is not ideal as they prepare to travel to France.
  • The visitors have been dumped out of Europe on each of the previous three occasions they have failed to win a knockout leg at home.
  • There have been under 2.5 goals scored in nine of West Ham’s last 11 Europa League games.

Player to Watch

Karl Toko Ekambi

Embed from Getty Images

The emergence of Cameroon international Karl Toko Ekambi, who is the competition’s joint leading scorer with six goals, has been a major reason for Lyon’s impressive run in the Europa League. The 29-year-old netted in his last appearance, a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Strasbourg, and has 19 goal contributions (14 goals, 5 assists) from 33 competitive outings for Les Gones this term.

West Ham have failed to maintain a clean sheet in their previous four games, so Toko Ekambi will be looking forward to having a proper go at this shaky defence.

Prediction

Olympique Lyon 1-1 West Ham United (Lyon to win on penalties)

Lyon have had a disappointing domestic season and will be hoping to salvage their campaign by conquering their first proper European trophy. Given West Ham’s current away form, Lyon are favourites to come away with a victory on Thursday. Moreover, the home side have no losses in their last five games. Although, they tend to draw a lot of games, as four of those five games ended in stalemates.

Neither club has been particularly productive in attack recently, and this, combined with the high stakes of the game, should result in relatively few chances at either end, leading to a tight and low-scoring contest.

So many of these European nights are determined by a stroke of individual brilliance, luck or a mistake. The Hard Tackle predicts the hosts will claim a victory on penalties.

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