West Ham United travel to the Netherlands to lock horns with AZ Alkmaar at the AFAS Stadion for the second leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final on Thursday night.
The Hammers mounted a second-half comeback through Said Benrahma and Michail Antonio to beat the Dutch side 2-1 at the London Stadium and will hope to finish the job behind enemy lines.
With Premier League relegation no longer a looming threat, David Moyes and his side have prioritised success on the continental stage over their remaining domestic fixtures.
That much was evident when Moyes’ heavily rotated Hammers side fell to a 2-0 defeat to Brentford in the London derby at the Gtech Community Stadium last weekend.
A draw will be enough to secure a place in the Europa Conference League final, but AZ will be itching to set the record straight after squandering a lead in the first leg.
The Dutch side transferred their wrath on Emmen in the Eredivisie, thrashing the relegation-threatened side 5-1 to move within two points of fourth-placed Ajax.
AZ’s only defeat in their last six games (W4, D1) came against West Ham in the reverse fixture, so Pascal Jansen’s side will be out for revenge, along with a place in the final.
Their Continental home form would give them a much-needed confidence boost as they are unbeaten in their last 25 European games in front of their fans (W17, D8).
The Dutch side have also won all eight Europa Conference League games on home soil this season (including qualifiers) by an aggregate score of 25-5.
AZ are no strangers to beating the odds, having progressed from three of their previous seven major European Knockout ties after losing the first leg away from home.
West Ham are looking to further their European dream, and with one foot in the final, Moyes will be keen for his side to hold their nerves and see out a potentially strong challenge from their Dutch counterparts.
The Hammers are looking to reach their third final in a major European competition and their first since they finished as runners-up in the 1976 Cup Winners’ Cup.
Moyes’ side have progressed from all nine of their previous major European knockout matches after winning the first leg, so they will fancy their chances of booking a place in the final in Prague.
Going behind on Thursday will do little to faze them, as they have gone on to win each of their four games in the tournament this season after conceding the opening goal.
AZ Alkmaar vs West Ham United Potential Line-ups
AZ Alkmaar (4-2-3-1): Matthew Ryan; Milos Kerkez, Pantelis Hatzidiakos, Sam Beukema, Yukinari Sugawara; Tijjani Reijnders, Jordy Clasie; Myron Van Brederode, Sven Mijnans, Mayckel Lahdo; Vangelis Pavlidis.
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Lucasz Fabianski; Thilo Kehrer, Nayef Aguerd, Kurt Zouma, Aaron Cresswell; Tomas Soucek, Declan Rice; Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Paqueta, Said Benrahma; Michail Antonio.
We Say: AZ Alkmaar 2-2 West Ham United (Agg: 3-4)
Despite AZ’s form on home turf, we expect West Ham to see out the challenge from the Dutch and book a place in the Europa Conference League final in Prague.
Watch Europa Conference League Live
All Europa Conference League games can be streamed live online – football live streams page for more information.
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