For the neutrals, last week’s first leg had an ideal outcome – a narrow win for one side which leaves everything to play for in the reverse fixture. It is Sevilla who hold a slender advantage ahead of Thursday’s rematch, courtesy of Munir El Haddadi’s goal on the hour mark at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
It felt like a fair outcome on the balance of play. Sevilla were the better team, albeit not by a huge margin. West Ham produced a battling display in Spain and things might have turned out differently had they displayed more of a clinical edge in and around the penalty area. The Premier League side had no trouble creating chances, but their conversion let them down.
There was much to admire in their performance, though, not least the fact the Hammers were not overawed by the occasion. Few players in the West Ham squad have experience of playing in the latter stages of a European competition, but that was not particularly noticeable in the first leg. They may have been beaten but David Moyes knows that his team are very much still in this tie.
At the same time Sevilla demonstrated many of the qualities that make them one of the favorites to win the Europa League. Knockout ties are often decided by fine margins, and Sevilla had the edge in both boxes. Their goal came from a clever set-piece routine which caught West Ham out. They managed the game well after taking the lead. Before that the Hammers had caused problems on the break, but Julen Lopetegui’s side tightened up as the game wore on.
UEFA abolished the away goals rule in time for the current campaign, so West Ham’s failure to find the net last time out is not as problematic as it would have been last term. Moyes’ men are the underdogs, but there was no shame in going down 1-0 to a side as strong as Sevilla and they are not out of this last-16 tie yet.
West Ham will look to make a fast start on Thursday in a bid to restore parity as quickly as possible. Most of the club’s supporters did not want to leave Upton Park, their former ground, for the London Stadium, and West Ham’s new home is still not universally popular. The fans are fully on board with the current team, though, and a fine atmosphere is guaranteed when Sevilla come to town.
West Ham will draw confidence from their recent record at the London Stadium. They have taken 10 points from the last 12 available on home turf in the Premier League. Leeds United are the only opposition side to win there in 2022. West Ham emerged triumphant from two of their three home games in the group stage of this competition, and a defeat by Dinamo Zagreb came after they had already booked their place in the round of 16.
However, West Ham will have to do without Jarrod Bowen – their best attacker – on Thursday. That is a huge blow. There was hope that the Englishman would be fit in time for the second leg, but a foot problem looks set to keep him on the sidelines for at least another fortnight.
That is good news for Sevilla, although Lopetegui’s side would have fancied their chances even if Bowen was available. Given they are second only to Real Madrid in the La Liga table, los Nervionenses have every right to be full of self-belief and confidence.
West Ham must win within 90 minutes on Thursday to stand a chance of progressing, but Sevilla’s record over the last few months shows how difficult that will be: they have gone 14 games without defeat in La Liga, with their most recent defeat coming way back on November 28. That loss was to Real Madrid – and it was an unfortunate one too.
Sevilla have drawn six of their last eight league games, but that would be enough to see them through here. Lopetegui’s side are a tough nut to crack, and West Ham will not find it easy to breach a backline which has conceded the fewest goals in the Spanish top tier. Sevilla showed in the first leg that they have the qualities to keep clean sheets against strong opposition.
This is a tough match to call, but the odds on a Sevilla win are too tempting to pass up.
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|West Ham United vs Sevilla Information|
|Teams||West Ham United vs Sevilla|
|Location||London Stadium, London, England|
|Time||Thursday, 17 March 2022, 16.00 PM EST|
|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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