·5 October 2022
·5 October 2022
West Ham United take a trip to the Lotto Park to encounter out-of-sorts Belgium First Division A outfit Anderlecht in Thursday’s Europa Conference League showdown.
Despite an underwhelming Premier League start, David Moyes’ team can be proud of their European performances this season as they’ve been the best version of themselves in continental football.
West Ham first ousted Danish Superliga minnows Viborg to qualify for the Europa Conference League group phase before packing a punch against FCSB and Silkeborg in the opening two Group B matchdays.
Interestingly, the Hammers have found themselves 1-0 behind in both group matches this season but scored precisely three goals apiece to win on each occasion.
Now in firm control of proceedings in this section, the Premier League strugglers will be looking to build on a morale-boosting 2-0 home triumph over Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend.
But Anderlecht, whose manager Felice Mazzu has come under heavy scrutiny, won’t go down without a fight, as revealed by former Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen.
The record-time Belgian champions boast an exciting mix of veteran stars like Vertonghen and up-and-coming youngsters like Wolves loanee Fabio Silva.
However, things are not going Anderlecht’s way early in the season. In addition to languishing in lower charges in the league, they’ve only won once in their last four competitive outings (D1, L2).
That said, the Belgians’ return to Europe could be a breath of fresh air as, like their visitors, they’ve reeled off their best showings this season in the Europa Conference League.
After a 1-0 home triumph over Silkeborg on day one, Anderlecht held FCSB to a scoreless draw in Romania last time out, bolstering their bid to progress into European knock-outs for the first time since 2016/17.
Qualifiers included, Mazzu’s lads have suffered just one defeat in their last six Europa Conference League fixtures (W4, D1), though that solitary reverse came on home turf at the hands of Young Boys.
It’s hard to expect Anderlecht to carry on with their eye-catching results in the competition as they’ve found themselves on the winning side only once in their last 13 European games against English clubs (D3, L9).
West Ham United
Since making it to next season’s European football through the Premier League already looks far-fetched, West Ham should go all-out in Europe’s third-tier competition.
The Irons have strung together four consecutive European triumphs in the run-up to this road trip, their longest-ever winning streak on the continental stage, scoring three goals on each occasion.
Moyes has relied on his team’s unity to deliver the goods in the Europa Conference League group stage this term, as six different players have been on the scoresheet for West Ham in the first two rounds.
Anderlecht (3-5-2): Hendrik Van Crombrugge; Zeno Debast, Jan Vertonghen, Wesley Hoedt; Michael Murillo, Amadou Diawara, Kristian Arnstad, Marco Kana, Francis Amuzu; Lior Refaelov, Fabio Silva.
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Alphonse Areola; Vladimir Coufal, Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma, Emerson Palmieri; Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek; Said Benrahma, Pablo Fornals, Manuel Lanzini; Michail Antonio.
A victory in Belgium could seal West Ham’s progression beyond Group B, but even a draw wouldn’t be a bad result for the Hammers.
Since Anderlecht’s stubborn backline has yet to concede in the Europa Conference League this season, the Hammers’ uneventful frontline could be in for another long evening.
We expect a tight, low-scoring affair to be in order.
Anderlecht 0-0 West Ham United
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