EUROPE: Europa League
Time: 9:00 PM
Venue: Olympic Stadium (London)
Despite their safe passage to the UEFA Europa League (UEL) knockout rounds as group winners already confirmed, West Ham are unlikely to take their foot off the gas as they ride the crest of Saturday’s wave after becoming only the second team this season to beat Chelsea in the Premier League (3-2). An unbeaten UEL group stage is there for the taking, and with a 70% home win rate in European competition (P27: W19, D3, L5), you wouldn’t rule out the ‘Hammers’ nailing down another three points in this clash.
Securing victory against Croatian opposition is something West Ham are becoming accustomed to, with three wins from three against such clubs, and should that become four on Thursday, it will only be the third time in history West Ham have won three home games in a single European campaign.
West Ham’s formidable home European record makes Dinamo Zagreb’s task even more difficult, when you consider that they’re winless in their eight prior visits to England (D1, L7). Thankfully, there is a silver lining for Zagreb though – they don’t actually need to beat West Ham here to qualify – simply avoiding defeat would be enough for the visitors due to their superior H2H record versus Genk.
Finding that point though may be easier said than done, as Zagreb have fallen to defeat in three of their last four UEL away games (W1) – all three defeats seeing them trail at half-time and conceding the opening goal. Crucially, conceding first away from home in the UEL usually spells disaster for Zagreb as October 2018 was the last time they secured a result having conceded first (W 2-1 v Spartak Trnava).
Players to watch: West Ham’s Michail Antonio scored the opener the last time these two sides met, but he is without a club goal since October. Bruno Petković boasts three UEL goals this campaign, two of which have come from the penalty spot.
- West Ham’s form in last 5 matches: WDLWL.
- D. Zagreb’s form in last 5 matches: LLWDD.
PREDICTION: Home Win and Over 1.5