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The odds for Fiorentina vs West Ham United are from the FanDuel sportsbook. Create an account and you will get a no sweat first bet worth $2500.
They have had a more consistent campaign and could edge out the Premier League outfit by a slender margin.
Back Fiorentina to beat West Ham United on Wednesday. (+175)
The introduction of the Europa Conference League at the start of the 2021/22 season was met with a mixed response. Many felt it was an unnecessary addition to an already-packed calendar. Even some participants, notably Tottenham Hotspur, viewed it as an inconvenience above all else.
It is true, clubs with Champions League aspirations are unlikely to be thrilled by the prospect of competing in Europe’s tertiary competition (whether Spurs have been successful enough to turn up their noses at the tournament is another matter).
But UEFA introduced the Europa Conference League with others in mind: chiefly mid-sized teams from the continent’s major leagues, and big clubs from some of its smaller nations. Fiorentina and West Ham United belong in the first category. Needless to say, both sides are looking forward to the final on Wednesday.
Take Fiorentina first. They have only ever won one European tournament: the Cup Winners’ Cup way back in 1961, its second season. They have not lifted a major trophy of any sort since the Coppa Italia in 2001.
The fact they are now potentially 90 minutes away from claiming a piece of silverware is therefore significant. Fiorentina entered in the play-off round and only finished second in the group stage, yet there is no doubt they deserve their place in the Prague showpiece.
They dispatched Braga (7-2), Sivasspor (5-1), and Lech Poznan (6-4), before squeezing past Basel 4-3 in the semis. The winning goal in the second leg came in the 10th minute of stoppage time at the end of extra time.
Fiorentina finished the Serie A season in eighth place. That means they will be absent from continental competition next term unless they win on Wednesday, with the Europa Conference League champions earning a spot in the Europa League. There is more than just a trophy to play for in Prague.
Whereas Fiorentina have spent the last few months fighting for a top-seven finish in Serie A, West Ham United only recently banished Premier League relegation fears. They ended the season six points above the bottom three, but survival was only secured in May.
That was disappointing. In 2020/21 West Ham finished sixth, before ending the 2021/22 campaign in seventh. After an active summer in the transfer market, they were expected to be involved in the European mix once again this season.
Somewhat counterintuitively, David Moyes’ men have gone backwards after bringing in better-quality players. The Scot is an excellent manager but his teams are not exactly renowned for free-flowing soccer. As strange as it sounds, Moyes is perhaps better suited to a less talented squad.
There have been times this season where the former Everton head coach was on the verge of the sack. But Moyes continually rode out those storms and he is now just one win away from cementing his status as one of West Ham’s greatest-ever managers.
If that sounds like hyperbole, consider that the Hammers, for all their prestige, have not won a trophy since 1980. In total, they have claimed three FA Cups and one Cup Winners’ Cup. Moyes would go down in the history books in east London if he were to oversee a victory this week.
Like their fellow finalists, West Ham’s journey began in the play-off round. They then topped their group with six wins and beat AEK Larnaca, Gent, and AZ in the knockout phase. West Ham are one more triumph from glory.
As you can see from the odds table above, the best online sportsbooks believe there is very little difference between these two teams. West Ham are the narrow favorites and Fiorentina are slight underdogs, but not by much.
That sounds about right. It is true that the Italian outfit have outperformed their English counterparts for most of the domestic season. But West Ham have punched below their weight in the Premier League and their Europa Conference League record is outstanding: 14 matches, 13 wins.
On balance, though, we just about favor Fiorentina for Wednesday’s final at the Fortuna Arena in Prague. Vincenzo Italiano’s side play a progressive brand of soccer which will stand them in good stead. They rank second for possession and third for shots per game in Serie A.
West Ham will be content to play on the counter-attack, and at his best Moyes is a master at organizing a defence. But Fiorentina’s superior ability on the ball could be the decisive factor. Back la Viola to come out on top in the second-ever Europa Conference League final.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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