West Ham face arguably their biggest game for 47 years on Wednesday, as they travel to Prague to face Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final.
Should the Hammers bring the cup home, it will be their first major trophy since winning the FA Cup in 1980, while the last time they lifted European silverware was back in 1965.
It’s a big occasion for both sides, though, with Fiorentina only appearing in two European finals since winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1961.
West Ham’s road to the final
West Ham’s incredible journey to Prague started back in August last year.
The Hammers were drawn against Danish side Viborg in the play-off round, dispatching them 6-1 on aggregate to qualify for the group stage.
They were the then only team in the tournament to finish the group stage with a 100 per cent record after beating Anderlecht, Silkeborg and Steaua Bucharest both home and away.
That gave David Moyes’ side a bye to the round of 16 where they coasted past AEK Larnaca with a 6-0 aggregate victory to set up a quarter final meeting with Belgian side Gent.
After a 1-1 draw in Belgium, West Ham won the second leg 4-1 at the London Stadium to advance to their second European semi-final in as many seasons.
Having trailed 0-1 in the first leg, the Hammers scored twice in the last half hour at the London Stadium before wrapping up a 3-1 aggregate victory in the Netherlands.
With just one hurdle left to overcome, history awaits.
Fiorentina’s road to the final
Fiorentina started at the same stage as West Ham, beating Dutch side FC Twente 2-1 on aggregate in the play-off round.
But Vincenzo Italiano’s side finished second in Group A, ahead of Hearts and Latvian side RFS but behind Istanbul Basaksehir.
That meant they faced an additional knockout tie against Europa League dropouts Braga, which they sailed through with a 7-2 aggregate victory.
Fiorentina then took on Turkish side Sivasspor and Polish side Lech Poznan in the next two rounds, before a 4-3 extra-time aggregate victory over Basel in the semi-final.
It’s been a difficult season for West Ham domestically, but they arrive in Prague on the back of one of their strongest runs of the campaign to date. Although they lost their final game of the Premier League to Leicester, the Hammers have won four of their last six matches, including a 1-0 victory over Manchester United and two wins over AZ Alkmaar in the Conference League semis.
Despite some struggles in the league, David Moyes’ side have been very impressive in Europe all season, winning 13 of their 14 matches while conceding just eight goals.
Fiorentina are also in great form. They won their final two matches of the Serie A season against Europa League finalists Roma and Sassuolo, sealing an eighth-place finish in the table.
Vincenzo Italiano’s side have won four of their last six games in all competitions, with the only defeat in that run coming in the Coppa Italia final against Inter Milan.
They have, however, lost two of their last three European matches against Lech Poznan and Basel, but managed to progress on aggregate in both ties.
There are a few key matchups that will define this final.
In midfield, West Ham will rely on captain Declan Rice to dictate play. The 24-year-old has quickly developed into one of the best midfielders in the Premier League under David Moyes and is a mainstay for England under Gareth Southgate.
His opposite number is Sofyan Amrabat, who was one of the standout players for Morocco as they made a historic run to the semi-finals at the 2022 World Cup.
In wide areas, Jarrod Bowen will provide much of the attacking threat for the Hammers. The winger has scored 12 goals and notched nine assists in all competitions, including four goals and two assists in the Conference League.
Nicolas Gonzalez will be Fiorentina’s main outlet on the flanks, with the Argentina international registering 14 goals and four assists in all competitions this term, with five goals and two assists coming in the UECL.
Finally, three of the competition’s top five scorers so far will face off up front, with Michail Antonio and Luka Jovic’s tally of six only beaten by Fiorentina’s Antonio Cabral.
There is nothing to separate the two teams in the betting, with both currently priced at 17/10 to win the game in 90 minutes, and 10/11 to lift the trophy.
As the odds suggest, it’s very difficult to pick a winner in this final. These have been clearly the best two sides in the Europa Conference League this season, and it’s tough to split them.
One thing that’s clear, though, is that there should be goals. Fiorentina are the competition’s top scorers with 36 goals, and West Ham have scored 27 while playing two matches fewer than the Italian side.
Both teams have scored in Fiorentina’s last five Conference League games, and in three of West Ham’s last four, so BTTS looks a good bet at .
Everyone will be watching Rice in what might be his final appearance for West Ham, and the captain is to get on the scoresheet. He’s scored three goals in his last 10 games, including a stunner against Gent in the quarter-finals.
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