Lyon v West Ham
Thursday 14 April, 20:00
Live on BT Sport
Lyon may rue lack of ruthlessness
Given that they had a numerical superiority for the entire second half at the London Stadium last week, Lyon will be disappointed to have only come away from Stratford with a 1-1 draw. After West Ham left-back Aaron Cresswell was controversially sent off for bringing down Lyon striker Moussa Dembele on the edge of the box, the ten-man Hammers even took the lead through Jarrod Bowen, only for on-loan Spurs midfielder Tanguy Ndombele to find a leveller.
Lyon’s domestic form continues to underwhelm, although coach Peter Bosz rotated heavily for the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Strasbourg, a game in which Lyon needed a last-gasp leveller from Karl Toko-Ekambi. Les Gones have won just four of their last 12 matches in all competitions, and when you look at the quality Dutchman Bosz has at his disposal, there’s always a feeling that the team is somehow less than the sum of its parts. Recent home defeats to Lille and Rennes have underlined that the team is not functioning as it should, and OL are now a hefty ten points adrift of the top three in Ligue 1.
There is attacking firepower. Dembele and Toko-Ekambi are regular scorers, and Brazilian attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta is a wonderful player to watch. However, there are concerns at the other end. First-choice goalkeeper Anthony Lopes is an injury doubt, which might bring the erratic Julian Pollersbeck into play. Centre-back Jerome Boateng isn’t the player he was in his Bayern pomp, and he was at fault for Bowen’s goal last week. Alongside him, 19-year-old Castello Lukeba is hugely promising, but inexperienced.
Tiring Hammers must dig deep
West Ham’s failure to strengthen in the winter window is a sore point with many fans, and it does seem as if the East London club is limping on the season’s final lap. It says a lot that boss David Moyes played a full-strength side in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Brentford, rather than rotating his squad for this trip to France. That decision has cost him the services of centre-back Kurt Zouma, who has picked up an ankle injury and won’t feature on Thursday night.
West Ham have lost their last five away games, but three of those losses were against Liverpool, Tottenham and Sevilla, so it’s perhaps not quite the crisis it’s being made out to be. The Hammers have given the Europa League their full attention from the get-go, and not only is it a chance to win a major trophy, it seems their only remaining route to the Champions League.
Arthur Masuaku will likely replace the suspended Cresswell at left-back, while Issa Diop came in for the stricken Zouma on Sunday. All of the key players – Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio – should start at the Groupama Stadium.
Moyes’ men can spring a surprise
There wasn’t much to separate the sides last week, even though West Ham were down to ten men for a big stretch of the game, and Lyon’s home form isn’t exactly formidable. There’s as much pressure on Lyon as there is on West Ham, and a good start for the Hammers could annoy and turn the crowd. Bosz’s attacking style demands a lot of his defenders, and I suspect that the speedy and intelligent Bowen can cause problems in support of the indefatigable Antonio. I don’t see much between the sides, so I’m happy to take the bigger price of 2.427/5 for West Ham in the To Qualify market.
Lyon’s disposal of Porto in the previous round must be respected, and if Paqueta, Toko-Ekambi and Dembele click, they could be matchwinners, but I just find it hard to trust the hosts given what they have done this season.
If you want to just look at the 90 minutes, you can back West Ham +0 & +0.5 on the Asian Handicap at 2.0811/10. If West Ham win the second leg in 90 minutes, you get an odds-against winner, but if the tie goes to extra time, you get a half-win.
Bowen can hit the Bullseye
Jarrod Bowen scored in the first leg, and he is trading at a hefty 4.3100/30 to find the net here. He has found the net in two of his last three games, and stretching back further, he has scored in eight of his last 14 appearances.
On the Lyon side of things, Moussa Dembele is worth considering at 2.915/8. The former Celtic centre-forward has scored in eight of his last 14 outings in all competitions.