West Ham v Rapid Vienna
Thursday 30 September, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 1
Hammers consistently catching the eye
Given their lack of European experience as a unit, West Ham could barely have made a better start to life in the Europa League. They went to Zagreb to face a Dinamo side that knocked out Tottenham last season, and they beat them 2-0 with a thoroughly professional performance. Michail Antonio grabbed the opener after a dreadful backpass from former Cardiff defender Kevin Theophile-Catherine, and then Declan Rice saw a superb individual goal.
It’s been an excellent beginning to the campaign in general for the Hammers. Their dramatic 2-1 win at Leeds at the weekend (Antonio snatched a late winner) put them seventh in the Premier League, and their superb 1-0 victory at Manchester United kept them on course for a deep run in the League Cup.
Moyes fielded a strong line-up in Zagreb, and it will be interesting to see how he approaches this. He has a deep squad and a clutch of players who are pushing hard for starts. Alphonse Areola could get the nod in goal, with Issa Diop and Craig Dawson options at centre-back.
Austrian giants having a tough time
These are worrying times for Rapid Vienna. Austria’s record champions (they have won the league title 32 times) have perhaps sold one talented player too many, and are suffering a slump. The weekend’s sobering 3-0 home defeat against Sturm Graz left Rapid second from bottom, with just two league wins collected from nine games.
Goalscoring has been a major issue for the capital club, with just ten goals scored in the first nine league matches.
Those issues were present on Matchday One in the group stage of this competition, as Rapid lost 1-0 at home to Genk. They have saved their most impressive performances for the UEL qualifiers, as they beat a decent Zorya team home and away, scoring three goals in each leg, and they put four goals past Cypriot side Anorthosis over two legs.
Strangely, attacking players Taxiarchis Fountas (four league goals) and Marco Grull (three goals) are in good form, but none of the other Rapid players have scored more than once in the league.
Rapid are without four players as they make the trip to East London, including centre-back Christopher Dibon and goalkeeper Richard Strebinger.
Hosts are fair favourites
West Ham are the superior team, and they are in far better form than their Austrian opponents. They have won three of their last four competitive matches, and they have only conceded two goals across their last five outings.
There are a few ways to play this. You can back West Ham to win by two goals or more by backing them -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.768/11. If you consider how much Rapid are struggling in front of goal, you could back West Ham to win and Under 3.5 Goals at 1.9210/11 on the Sportsbook’s Bet Builder (see offer below).
Magic Michail to conjure up another goal?
Michail Antonio continues to be a talismanic figure in attack for West Ham. He has scored five goals in five Premier League appearances this term, and he netted an opportunistic opener in Zagreb. He is understandably short to find the net here, as he is priced at 8/11, but you could double that up with a West Ham win at 1.910/11 on the Bet Builder.
Alternatively, you can back Antonio to have five or more shots at 11/10. He had seven goal attempts at Leeds, five at home to Crystal Palace and seven against Leicester City.