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David Moyes’ men are a force to be reckoned with on home turf, but the German visitors should be able to find the net.
Back West Ham United to win and both teams to score (-120)
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When David Moyes returned for a second spell in charge of West Ham United in December 2019, the club’s fans were distinctly underwhelmed. The Scot had fulfilled his remit of steering the Hammers clear of relegation from the Premier League the first time around, but the owners felt he was not the man to take them forward beyond that fire-fighting job. Quite why they had performed a U-turn within the space of 18 months was unknown to the supporters, who gave Moyes their backing but did not expect much excitement in return.
How wrong they were. Moyes has done a magnificent job in the last two and a half years. First, he pulled West Ham clear of trouble towards the bottom of the table in 2019/20. Last season brought a surprise sixth-place finish, with the club from the capital in contention for the top four until the final few weeks of the campaign. This term he has proved that the top-six finish was no fluke, while also taking West Ham the furthest they have gone in a continental competition in 46 years.
The Hammers are once again in the mix for a top-six finish domestically, but they have now turned their attention decisively towards the Europa League. That was evidenced in Moyes’ team selection for Sunday’s meeting with Chelsea: the West Ham boss made changes to his side, preserving the likes of Declan Rice, Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen for the first leg of the semi-final.
It makes complete sense to prioritize the Europa League. West Ham are now eight points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal, so the tournament offers the clearest path to the Champions League (the winners of Europe’s secondary competition automatically qualify for the group stage).
Just as significant is the fact that West Ham could win their first piece of silverware since 1980. If Moyes gets his hands on a trophy, he will automatically go down as one of the best managers the club has ever had.
Similarly, the Europa League is the only thing Eintracht Frankfurt have left to play for. There are only three rounds of fixtures still to play in the Bundesliga. The best Frankfurt can achieve is an eighth-place finish, which would not be enough for them to return to the Europa League next term. Seventh-favorites to finish in the top four at the start of the campaign, Frankfurt have done about as well as most people expected before the action got under way.
Consistency has eluded Oliver Glasner’s side in the German top flight. They have tended to blow hot and cold. For example, they won only one of their first 10 games before triumphing in six of seven matches a few weeks later.
Their form has tailed off of late, with Frankfurt having failed to win any of their last five outings. That is at least in part down to their focus being trained on the Europa League.
Indeed, Glasner’s men have been much more reliable in Europe. They have not lost a single game in this competition, despite facing tricky tests against Real Betis and Barcelona in the knockout stage. Their 3-2 triumph over the latter at the Camp Nou in the quarter-finals was particularly impressive. Frankfurt should not be written off in this one.
As well as going unbeaten in 10 Europa League matches this season, it is worth noting that nine of those Frankfurt games have featured goals for both teams. The only one that did not, an away game against Antwerp, saw Frankfurt win 1-0. That means the Bundesliga outfit have found the back of the net in 100 per cent of their European matches this term.
The abolition of the away goals rule at the start of the campaign has seen some teams adopt more cautious approaches in the away leg. That has not been the case for Frankfurt, though: Glasner’s side stormed into a 3-0 lead against Barcelona in Catalonia, having previously beaten Real Betis 2-1 in Seville.
It is therefore worth backing Frankfurt to score on Thursday. However, there is also reason to believe West Ham can come out on top. They have beaten Chelsea, Liverpool, Sevilla and Tottenham Hotspur at the London Stadium in recent months, while the likes of Rice, Bowen and Antonio should be reasonably fresh. A home win and both teams to score is the way to go here.
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|West Ham United vs Eintracht Frankfurt Information|
|Teams||West Ham United vs Eintracht Frankfurt|
|Location||London Stadium, London, England|
|Time||Thursday, 28 April 2022, 3.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
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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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