West Ham United host Anderlecht in the Europa Conference League tonight at the London Stadium.
European football has been somewhat of a saving grace this season for David Moyes’ side. It has granted them opportunities to iron out (excuse the pun) the deficiencies in their game and recoup some much-needed confidence after what has been a poor start to the Premier League campaign, all things considered.
The Hammers were the better side in last week’s affair between the two teams, enjoying more of the ball and taking more shots than Anderlecht, and edged it with a 1-0 win in Brussels courtesy of a Gianluca Scamacca goal. It cemented West Ham’s position at the top of the group, with Moyes’ team so far enduring a flawless start in Group B.
They will be hoping to do so again in tonight’s clash in what is a chance to secure a fourth consecutive win in all competitions and seal their passage to the knockout stages – a major turnaround from where they were at the start of the month, when they sat in the Premier League relegation zone.
Speaking in Wednesday’s pre-match press conference, Moyes issued a positive admission surrounding Irons duo Nayef Aguerd and Maxwel Cornet.
Although neither of them will be contention to play tonight, the Moroccan defender is back on the grass and “beginning to make his way” back into contention, while the Ivory Coast international could return to the fold next week.
Aside from that, Michail Antonio has been under the weather with a cold which has kept him out of training recently, so the Jamaican could be touch-and-go for this clash at the London Stadium.
With injury news covered, here is the line-up that we expect Moyes to deploy against Anderlecht tonight.
Coufal, Dawson, Ogbonna, Johnson
Lanzini, Downes, Emerson
Fornals, Scamacca, Benrahma
We anticipate eight changes from the match against Fulham last Sunday in what is a mix of customary rotation for the Europa Conference League and additional rest for stalwarts such as Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Paqueta and Tomas Soucek.
Alphonse Areola replaces Lukasz Fabianski between the sticks in what is a regular change for this competition.
In defence, Thilo Kehrer loses out to Vladimir Coufal, who regains his place at right-back. Kurt Zouma will get a rest ahead of the Southampton game at the weekend, with Angelo Ogbonna set to take his place at left centre-back.
Ben Johnson could get another run-out in the Europa Conference League in place of Aaron Cresswell, having done well against Anderlecht in the reverse fixture as he won six duels and made three clearances.
Manuel Lanzini could line out on the right of midfield, with Moyes enjoying the Argentine’s impact as a number 8, whilst Emerson Palmieri may join him at left central midfield, with the pair coming in for Rice and Soucek respectively.
Flynn Downes should claim further minutes in Europe this season, taking Paqueta’s place in what cements the formation change from a 4-2-3-1 last time out to a 4-3-3 tonight. The former Ipswich and Swansea gem will likely function as a single pivot after his widely-hailed performance in Belgium a week ago.
Bowen may lose out to Said Benrahma here, with a rest needed for the Englishman ahead of the Southampton game in just three days’ time. The Algerian is expected to function on the left, with Fornals on the right.
It’s a big game for Benrahma, who could finally get another start in what has been a frustrating season for him amidst a lack of game-time.
Moyes has the chance to inject further confidence into the squad and will be looking for a convincing win, even with a much-changed line-up.