West Ham United vs AZ Alkmaar: Preview and Prediction
West Ham United will host the Eredivisie side, AZ Alkmaar at London Stadium in the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final. The Hammers recently picked up a huge victory over Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United.
The margin of the triumph on the scoresheet was only 1-0, however, it will mentally boost David Moyes’ men to a towering extent. However, Pascal Jansen’s AZ can also pull a major upset on the big stage by turning down the likes of the Premier League side in the similar way they did for Lazio.
West Ham United topped their Conference League group by winning all six matches, turning down the likes of Anderlecht, Silkeborg, and FCSB. On the other hand, AZ Alkmaar also had a similar triumphing run with five wins but they suffered a heartbreaking loss against Apollon.
In the Round of 16, AZ was drawn against Serie A side Lazio and they managed to get over the Italian challenge comfortably with a 2-1 win in both legs and with an eventual aggregate of 4-2 while the Hammers defeated AEK Larnaca to secure a spot in the quarter-final with an aggregate scoreline of 6-0.
David Moyes’ side had a number of difficult fixtures in their last five Premier League games. They recorded losses against Manchester City, Liverpool, and Crystal Palace while they took down Bournemouth and most importantly, Manchester United. Also, the Hammers are not actually in their best form as they are currently in the 15th spot in the league table but they are fairly out of relegation danger.
Talking about their form in the UEFA Europa Conference League, they clashed against Belgian side Genk in the quarter-final. The first leg of the fixture ended as a draw after Danny Ings’ strike was equalized by Hugo Cuypers in the second half. In their home leg, West Ham United was trailing after the initial 30 minutes, but with the help of goals from Michail Antonio, Lucas Paqueta, and Declan Rice, Moyes’ side emerged victorious.
AZ Alkmaar has been really close to the title in the last few years, however, the distance has always been painful. They are currently in the fourth spot in the Eredivisie below Ajax, PSV, and Feyenoord. Consequently, unlike last year, they are currently out of European football contention and would need to lift the UEFA Europa Conference League trophy to automatically qualify for the UEFA Europa League.
Jansen’s men squared off against Anderlecht in their pre-semi-final fixture. Playing at the Lotto Park, goals from Majeed Ashimeru and Michael Amir Murillo helped Brian Riemer’s Anderlecht record a comfortable win in the first leg. However, AZ can from behind to draw the match on aggregate and eventually win it on penalties in the second leg.
Head to Head Record
AZ Alkmaar and West Ham United will be meeting for the first time in an official match for their semi-final fixture at the UEFA Europa Conference League, and this makes the clash even more interesting.
Talking about West Ham United, Kurt Zouma suffered an ankle injury during their match against Crystal Palace. The Injury looked serious however, the Frenchman is expected to return next week.
Defensive midfielder Vladimír Coufal and attacker Gianluca Scamacca will also be missing out on the first leg following hamstring and knee issues respectively. But Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, and Nayef Aguerd will be available and fully fit.
The visitors have suffered a major blow as they’ll be playing the first leg without their left-back Milos Kerkez. According to the UEFA’s competition laws, any player that receives three yellow cards between the group stage to the second leg of the quarter-final gets suspended for a match.
Hence, the 19-year-old Hungarian will be missing the brawl in London. Kerkez was playing a major role in AZ’s squad as he also found a regular place in the playing XI of the team. Another major name that the Dutch side will miss is their key forward Vangelis Pavlidis. Moreover, the formerly injured Bruno Martins Indi, Dani de Wit, Karlsson, and Sem Westerveld will also be out of action.
Predicted Starting XIs
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Lukasz Fabianski, Thilo Kehrer, Angelo Ogbonna, Nayef Aguerd, Aaron Cresswell, Tomas Soucek, Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Paqueta, Said Benrahma, Michail Antonio
AZ Alkmaar (4-2-3-1): Mathew Ryan, Yukinari Sugawara, Sam Beukema, Pantelis Chatzidiakos, Mees de Wit, Jordy Clasie, Tijjani Reijnders, Jens Odgaard, Sven Mijnans, Myron van Brederodez Đorđe Mihailović.
It will be the first-ever meeting between West Ham United and AZ Alkmaar. Looking at the recent form, David Moyes’ men are expected to edge over their Dutch competitors in their home leg.