AZ Alkmaar vs West Ham United: Preview and Prediction
West Ham United and AZ Alkmaar will be fighting for a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League final, when they will lock horns in the second leg of the semi-final, at the AFAS Stadion on Thursday.
Having won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965 and the Intertoto Cup in 1999, the Hammers from London will be aiming to add a third European title to their trophy cabinet. They will start this match from an advantageous position, having won the first leg 2-1.
On the other hand, AZ Alkmaar will have it all to do, but they will have the backing of their fans. They have previously played in the final of the UEFA Europa League but ended up losing that match to another English team, Ipswich Town. They will be fighting for a place in their second European final.
West Ham United have had a nearly perfect campaign in this tournament. They were paired alongside RSC Anderlecht, Silkeborg and FCSB in the group stages, and ended up winning all four matches quite comfortably.
The round of 16 was a cakewalk once again, as David Moyes’ team defeated Crypus’ AEK Larnaca 6-0 on aggregate. In the quarter-final, the challenge was a bit more difficult as KAA Gent restricted them to a 1-1 draw in the first leg, but then won the second leg by a 4-1 margin. In the first leg of the semi-final, the Hammers got a 2-1 win.
AZ Alkmaar has had a long journey in this tournament, as they had to beat three teams to qualify for the group stages. In the qualifying round, the Cheeseheads got the better of Tuzia City, Dundee United and Gil Vicente.
In the group stage, where they were up against Dnipro-1, Apollon Limassol and Vaduz, Pascal Jensen’s team secured 15 points in six games. The main surprise came in the round of 16 when Alkmaar defeated Maurizio Sarri’s Lazio 4-2 in aggregate, while in the quarter-final, they defeated RSC Anderlecht 4-1.
Head to Head Record
Interestingly, this will only be the second match between West Ham United and AZ Alkmaar, with the first leg being the first meeting. Despite going down early, the Hammers won that game 2-1 at the London Stadium. Benrahma and Michail Antonio scored for Moyes’ team, while for the Cheeseheads, Tijjani Reijnders was the lone scorer.
Although he might prefer playing the same team that featured in the first leg, Moyes might be forced to make some changes. Last game’s goal-scorer, Antonio is nursing a calf injury, which prevented him from taking part in the weekend’s Premier League fixture against Brentford.
If he does not recover in time, Danny Ings is expected to lead the line for the Hammers. As for the positive update, Angelo Ogbonna has recovered from his injury and played against Brentford. He is likely to replace the Moroccan central defender Nayef Aguerd.
On the other hand, Jensen will receive a significant boost ahead of this match. Hungarian left-back Milos Kerkez, who was suspended for the first game, will be available for this tie. He is expected to replace Mees de Wit.
Besides that, the Dutch tactician is expected to make another change to his team. Danish attacker Jens Odgaard did not have a good time in the first leg and was later substituted. On this occasion, we could see Sweden’s Mayckel Lahdo replacing him.
Predicted Starting XIs
AZ Alkmaar (4-2-3-1): Matthew Ryan; Yukinari Sugawara, Pantelis Chatzidiakos, Milos Kerkez; Jordy Clasie, Tijjani Reijnders; Mayckel Lahdo, Sven Mijnans, Myron van Brederode; Vangelis Pavlidis
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Alphonse Areola; Thilo Kehrer, Angelo Ogbonna, Kurt Zouma, Aaron Cresswell; Tomas Soucek, Declan Rice; Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Paqueta, Said Behrahma; Danny Ings
Although AZ Alkmaar is a strong team at their home ground, West Ham United holds the upper hand when it comes to squad strength. Hence, we have predicted the Hammers to win this match and book a place in the final.