Soccer Europa Conference League - Play-Offs Prediction
Fiorentina vs Basel - Match Preview
⚽ 11 May 2023 - 10:00 GMT +0
In the final four of a European competition for the first time since 2015, when they missed out on a continental final for the second time this century, UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL) semi-finalists Fiorentina will be hoping that third time’s the charm. However, they survived a major onslaught in the quarter-final second leg, going down 3-2 at home to Lech Poznań for a 6-4 aggregate win that had the Stadio Artemio Franchi on edge.
Older Fiorentina fans have to cast their minds back to 1990 for the club’s latest European final, and a major defensive improvement on home soil would be well-advised if that’s to change. In fact, La Viola has registered just one UECL home shutout in seven attempts, taking the gloss off a great home record in this competition prior to the Lech game (W5, D1).
However, Basel will not be taken lightly, especially after beating a much-fancied Nice side in extra time after a late equaliser on the French Riviera. The Rotblau’s subsequent reward is an opportunity to right the wrongs of 2013’s UEFA Europa League semi-finals when eventual winners Chelsea thrashed them 5-2 on aggregate.
While most Basel fans will want to see their team go for the jugular again, taking a level aggregate scoreline into the second leg at St Jakob-Park certainly wouldn’t be a bad result. And they’ve become draw specialists in the UECL recently, with each of their previous four continental clashes ending with the sides on equal terms at the end of the 90 minutes.
📋 Key battle: Tied with Luka Jović on six UECL goals, Arthur Cabral was rested for Fiorentina’s loss at Napoli on Sunday, and is still aiming to be the first outright Brazilian golden boot winner of a UEFA competition since Vágner Love in 2009. Though rivals in one respect, they are united by a common enemy – especially Kasim Nuhu, who completed Basel’s heroics against Nice, making three of his last four goals deciders after the hour mark.
⚡ Hot streak: Fiorentina’s last three UECL home wins have seen their deciding goal arrive beyond the hour mark.
West Ham vs AZ Alkmaar - Match Preview
⚽ 11 May 2023 - 10:00 GMT +0
West Ham United boss David Moyes was in a good mood after overseeing a first league win over his former club Manchester United in over a decade last time out. That 1-0 win means the Hammers have finally reached a Premier League (PL) points total that would have ensured survival in ten of the last 11 seasons, just in time to fully focus on reaching a UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL) final at the expense of AZ Alkmaar!
A return to UECL action may not faze the Irons, who became the first club in the competition’s short history to pick up maximum points in a group stage this season. Moyes will hope lessons were learned after crashing out at this stage against eventual winners Frankfurt last season, yet a 17-goal haul from six UECL home games this campaign (W6) gives cause for tentative expectation.
Looking to dash that hope are perennial European underdogs AZ, with the senior side perhaps taking inspiration from the young AZ crop who won the UEFA Youth League last month! The future may be bright, but the European past is not, as AZ have lost all of their six previous trips to England whilst conceding at least four times in each of their last three short jaunts across the North Sea.
There’s a strong case to be made for the Cheese Heads to buck that trend after a rock-solid run of over six hours of competitive play since conceding their last goal. That run included part of a comeback victory in their quarter-final second leg (3-0 AET) and was bookended by holding Champions League calibre Ajax to a goalless draw to maintain their hopes of recording a top-three finish in the Eredivisie.
📋 Players to watch: Tomáš Souček knows that a strong start will further his ambition of returning to former club Slavia Praha’s Eden Aréna for the final against Fiorentina or Basel. The imposing Czech midfielder is used to doing just that after hitting West Ham’s opener with seven of his last eight strikes! Funnily enough, the same stat applies to Jens Odgaard for his side AZ! The 24-year-old Danish forward is well up for this, stating “We’re capable of doing big things” ahead of this gargantuan clash.
⚡ Hot streak: AZ hasn’t played out a stalemate in UECL away games this season (W5, L3).
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