Soccer UEFA Conference League - Play-Offs Prediction
AZ Alkmaar vs West Ham - Match Preview
⚽ 18 May 2023 - 19:00 GMT +0
After squandering a first-half lead to lose 2-1 in the first leg of this UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL) semi-final, AZ Alkmaar has it all to do in their quest to reach a first European Cup final in 42 years. Unlike their visitors, Pascal Jansen’s men are enjoying a fine domestic season and are still fighting tooth and nail for a top-three finish with Ajax, and a rampant 5-1 win over Emmen on Sunday provided the perfect warm-up.
The Alkmaarders are the only side who’ve won two UECL groups coming into this and only the brave would back them confidently, as they’ve maintained a perfect winning home record in this season’s competition (W8). Their record against English opponents on Dutch soil is rock-solid, but far from impressive (W2, D5, L1), and it was David Moyes-led Everton who inflicted that sole defeat back in 2007/08!
Moyes’ West Ham United fell to a fourth defeat in their last six competitive games in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat against Brentford, but they can perhaps be forgiven for the drop off in domestic form with their league status all but assured for next season. The Hammers are potentially only 90 minutes from their first major European final since 1976, yet their powerful forward Michail Antonio has called for calm, stating “it’s far from over” in the wake of their reverse victory.
Hammers fans of a certain era may remember their four games across two historical knockout ties against Dutch opposition (W3, L1). They ultimately progressed from both and will be hoping to make it three for three here. Yet, conceding nine goals across three straight travelling defeats may have some nerve-jangling. Quite simply, Moyes’ men will have nothing to play for if they don’t progress and his position may become untenable at the season’s conclusion.
📋 Key battle: Saïd Benrahma was crowned player of the UECL semi-final first leg after his six-goal attempts and equalising goal, and he’s now scored crucial goals in victory in two of his last three appearances! He’ll be trying to get the better of AZ and former Brighton keeper Mat Ryan; the Australian who remained unbeaten against the Irons until the first leg (W3, D2, L1).
⚡ Hot streak: West Ham has progressed from all 11 of their two-legged UEFA ties in which they won the first leg at home.
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