West Ham v Sevilla
Thursday 17 March, 20:00
Live on BT Sport
Will injuries derail Hammers’ glory push?
There has been a fierce debate around West Ham since the closure of the winter transfer window, with many fans and neutral observers bemused by the failure to strengthen the squad, especially in attack. That necessity to provide more options for Hammers boss David Moyes has been brought into sharp focus by the build-up to the club’s biggest European match for decades.
Talismanic striker Michail Antonio has a thigh injury, and at time of writing is by no means certain to start the game. Jarrod Bowen is definitely out, so there is no dedicated centre-forward available. Andriy Yarmolenko scored a fabulous goal against Aston Villa (and then wept for his Ukrainian homeland in the most poignant moment of the Premier League weekend), but he is hardly a consistent threat in front of goal.
The Hammers did create chances in Andalusia last week. Nikola Vlasic had a free header in front of goal which he couldn’t beat Yacine Bono with, and the Sevilla keeper also kept out a stinging drive from Tomas Soucek.
Defenders Angelo Ogbonna and Vladimir Coufal are out, while left-back Aaron Cresswell is racing to be fit.
UEL gleam now provides the brightest light
It was a nice dream while it lasted, but Sevilla have surely now accepted deep down that their hopes of winning La Liga this term have been erased. Their title challenge has drowned in draws – they were once again held on the road at the weekend as they played out a 1-1 stalemate at Rayo Vallecano, their fifth consecutive draw on the road in the Spanish top flight. That consistent failure to turn draws into wins was always going to be costly against the backdrop of Real Madrid’s gritty consistency.
With Sevilla now ten points off top spot, the prospect of winning a seventh Europa League title in their own Sanchez Pizjuan stadium is an exciting one that surely demands their full attention. They squeezed past Dinamo Zagreb in the previous round, winning 3-1 at home before losing 1-0 away, and they weren’t overly impressive in last week’s 1-0 win over West Ham.
Sevilla haven’t won an away game since January, but they have only lost five of 23 on their travels this term in all competitions. In the Champions League, they didn’t win any of their three group-stage away matches. They drew in Wolfsburg and Lille, and lost 1-0 at Salzburg to crash out of the competition.
Star man Lucas Ocampos is suspended, but Ivan Rakitic could return after getting injured in the warm-up ahead of the first leg. Suso and Papu Gomez are injured.
Whatever happens, both teams can score
West Ham are the 2.285/4 favourites here in the Match Odds market, and I just can’t get involved at that price. Sevilla are an experienced, tough outfit, and they have proven incredibly difficult to beat in La Liga. West Ham will obviously get raucous support at the London Stadium, but this is a massive test for a group of players that doesn’t have a lot of experience as a team at this level.
What I do like the look of is backing Both Teams To Score at 2.0421/20. I did that for the first leg, and it really should have landed, given the chances that West Ham carved out. West Ham have scored at least once in 11 of their last 12 home matches, including the last eight. Sevilla have scored in 14 of their last 20 competitive away games. At some stage, West Ham will have to try to open the game up.
Benrahma to rise to the occasion?
Said Benrahma had a hand in both goals in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Aston Villa, and was challenged after the game by Moyes to be more consistent. The Algerian has now scored five goals and delivered six assists in this Premier League season, and he is 4.216/5 to set up a goal in the Anytime Assist market.
On the Sevilla side of things, keep an eye on Rafa Mir, who outside of Ocampos is their most consistent attacking threat. The former Wolves striker doesn’t always start, but keep an eye on the team news, and back him at 4.216/5 in the To Score market if he starts. He has 11 goals in all competitions.