After a difficult start to their domestic season, West Ham United are hoping that a European encounter under the lights will get them up and running. They face Danish side Viborg FF In the first-leg of their UEFA Europa Conference League Play-off match tonight.
The Hammers finished the 2020/21 season in sixth place and went straight into the UEFA Europa League group stages but, a seventh place finish last campaign meant that they had guaranteed that they would be involved in European football again. The only difference this time was that it would be in the UEFA Europa Conference League and they would have to go through the qualifying process in order to make the group stage.
However, recent history would tell you that West Ham haven’t fared well when they have had to qualify for European competition but, under the stewardship of David Moyes, fingers crossed it’s a different story.
Few would have expected the East Londoners to get as far as they did in Europe last term and beat some of the biggest names but there is a greater expectation on them to reach the group stage this time around.
Moyes will not be in the home dugout for this game as he was sent to the stands, having been sent off in their second-leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final against FFV Eintract Frankfurt meaning Billy McKinlay will be in charge of team affairs alongside Kevin Nolan, Paul Nevin, and Mark Warburton.
New Club Captain Declan Rice is suspended, after a retrospective ban, while Aaron Cresswell is also unavailable, after he received a red card in the same match.
Manuel Lanzini, Tomáš Souček, Flynn Downes, Connor Coventry and Gianluca Scamacca will be involved.
Alphonse Areola joined McKinlay at the pre-match news conference and the Frenchman is set to replace Łukasz Fabiański in goal.
Thilo Kehrer became the club’s seventh signing of the summer transfer window on Wednesday after he completed a £10.1m move from Paris Saint-Germain. The German international defender signed an initial four-year deal with the option for a further two years. McKinlay had good news for the home fans, as he hinted ahead of the game that the player is in contention and will possibly play some part.
Maxwel Cornet made his debut coming off the bench at newly-promoted Nottingham Forest five days ago and he may be handed a first start in front of the home fans.
Tonight’s match is a 7:45pm kick-off and live coverage will be screened by BT Sport from 7:15pm. The referee is Marco Di Bello.