West Ham United will look to kick off their Europa Conference League campaign with a victory on Thursday night when they host Romanian side FCSB.
West Ham begin their Europa Conference League quest on home soil on Thursday night with what looks like a winnable opening test against Romanian minnows FCSB.
After enjoying a remarkable run to last season’s Europa League semi-finals, the Hammers have obviously dropped down a competition on the continent and will enter the 2022/23 Europa Conference League as one of the favourites to win the second edition of the tournament.
Having sealed a comfortable 6-1 aggregate qualifying win over Viborg, David Moyes’ side have been drawn to face Anderlecht, FCSB, and Silkeborg in the group stages, and they would be well advised not to take anyone lightly. The Irons have been handed some potential banana skins in Group B, but they should advance to the knockout stage in an ideal scenario.
The Hammers have had a sluggish start to the Premier League season and currently occupy a place in the relegation zone. However, they can consider themselves unlucky not to have picked up any points following their contentious 2-1 loss at Chelsea on Saturday due to a VAR blunder.
FCSB, meanwhile, will be looking to make their mark on their first appearance in the Europa Conference League after being knocked out in the preliminary round last season. However, advancing from this group will be a tough ask given that they have been partnered with West Ham and Anderlecht.
Formerly known as Steaua Bucharest, the Romanian outfit is actually a club with a rich history in European competitions, having been crowned European champions back in 1986 but last featuring in the group stages of a European competition in the 2017-18 season.
Bucharest knocked out opponents from Romania and Norway in the qualifiers to get this far, including a dramatic 4-3 aggregate win over Viking FK 4-3 in the playoffs. In contrast, they have had a horrible start to the domestic season and currently sit fourth bottom in the Romanian top-flight. The Hard Tackle will now take a look at their chances of causing a big upset in the midweek at London Stadium.
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Ben Johnson is set to miss the game due to a hamstring injury, while Aaron Cresswell has been dealing with a groin issue recently. David Moyes will inevitably shuffle his pack for this encounter in a bid to keep his players fresh with a crucial Premier League clash against Newcastle around the corner.
Good to see this man training with the squad today 😄 pic.twitter.com/swWfFPzndE
— West Ham United (@WestHam) September 6, 2022
Moyes went with a back-three at the weekend but could revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation against an inferior opposition here. After signing on a permanent basis in the summer, Alphonse Areola is considered the cup goalkeeper once again and could start here.
In defence, the Scot does not have many alternatives right now due to the long-term injury to summer signing Nayef Aguerd. Emerson Palmieri is expected to start at left-back ahead of Aaron Cresswell, as both players battle for the starting spot.
Angelo Ogbonna should return to the starting XI to get more minutes under his belt once again, and he will be partnered by Thilo Kehrer at the heart of central defence to allow Kurt Zouma a breather. Moyes could bring in Harrison Ashby at right-back, with Vladimir Coufal the only fit first-team player in the position.
Conor Coventry could also start after being included in the matchday squad for West Ham’s last league game, and Flynn Downes could also be deployed as the anchor in midfield. Moyes does have Declan Rice back available after missing both legs of the play-off stage owing to suspension, and can call upon the Hammers’ skipper if he decides to go ahead with a more experienced option in the middle of the park.
Summer signings Maxwel Cornet and Lucas Paqueta could start in attack, while Pablo Fornals could start on the right wing to provide work rate and discipline to the new-look attack. Gianluca Scamacca could make his return up front after missing the last two games with an illness.
Probable lineup (4-2-3-1): Areola; Ashby, Kehrer, Ogbonna, Palmieri; Coventry, Downes; Cornet, Paqueta, Fornals; Scamacca
FCSB unsurprisingly arrive in the English capital as underdogs, and Nicolae Dica’s side must be devoid of confidence heading into Thursday’s game, having taken only one point from their three away league games this season.
The lengthy injury list inspires little confidence, with Iulian Cristea, Ionut Pantiru, Adrian Sut, Ovidiu Popescu, and Andre Dumiter all among the visitors’ casualties ahead of their midweek clash.
FCSB are unlikely to deviate from their 4-2-3-1 formation and have stuck to it despite recent reversals. Stefan Tarnovanu will start in between the sticks for the visitors, behind the central defence of Joonas Tamm and Joyskim Dawa, who will have to cope with the physical presence of Scamacca.
Grigoras Pantea and Risto Radunovic will act as the fullbacks and will be tasked with stopping their Inter compatriots from bombing forward. Meanwhile, Malcom Edjouma is set to be partnered with Marco Dulca in the midfield double pivot.
The Romanian side sold their star midfielder, Florin Tanase—who was the club’s top scorer last season with 20 competitive goals—to UAE Pro League side Al-Jazira last month. Right-winger David Miculescu has since been shifted into his role and has not endured the same level of productivity.
Nonetheless, he will get another chance here, with Florinel Coman and Andrei Cordea offering support down the respective flanks, with the latter the top-scorer this season with four goals. After scoring on his debut last mid-week, summer arrival Andrea Compagno may retain his spot down the middle of the attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Tarnovanu; Pantea, Tamm, Dawa, Radunovic; Dulca, Edjouma; Cordea, Miculescu, Coman; Compagno
- Thursday’s game will be only the third encounter between West Ham and FCSB. The two teams previously met in a two-match Europa League knockout game back in 1999, with Romania winning 2-0 in the first leg and hanging on for a goalless draw in the second.
- West Ham United have lost only one of their last six home games in European competitions (W4, D1).
- The Hammers won both of their qualifying games by two or more goals.
- FCSB are winless in three of their last four fixtures in all competitions, and they have remained so in four of their past six road trips.
- West Ham have only won twice in the last 10 home games across all competitions (4D, 4L).
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Scamacca is likely to get the nod up top to lead the line for the Hammers, and the Italian striker scored in both of the Hammers’ two victories over Viborg, and he could get more success in front of goal on Thursday against the similar quality of opposition. At a height of 6ft 5in, the 23-year-old is good in the air and could be a threat if provided with decent services. He is also expected to take a large number of shots, which will inevitably lead to goals.
West Ham United 3-0 FCSB
David Moyes is expected to make the changes as he looks to juggle multiple games in quick succession, but the Irons boss now has strength in depth in his squad following a busy summer spree.
While the Hammers’ Premier League points tally is concerning, the visitors are not pulling up any trees in their domestic circuit either, having collected just seven points from seven games. Should the hosts get an early goal on Thursday, the Romanian side may well crumble. West Ham heads into this encounter as overwhelming favourites and should win this one quite comfortably, especially at home.