West Ham United head into the second leg of their Europa League semi-final with Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday night looking to overturn a 2-1 deficit.
The Hammers make the trip to Deutsche Bank Park sitting in the seventh position in the Premier League standings, while Frankfurt are down in 11th place in the Bundesliga.
When the German outfit got the better of Barcelona at the quarter-final stage, it was perceived that the door had been pushed open for the East London side to make the final of a European competition.
However, the German side showed at the London Stadium why it was naive to expect an easier game, the Hammers being served a reality check within the first minute of the contest when Ansgar Knauff finished off a fine move to put Frankfurt ahead.
David Moyes may be relieved that his team are still in the tie after conceding so early, but the Scot will be equally disappointed that he and his squad are travelling to the Deutsche Bank Park with a monumental task ahead of them.
Injuries and suspensions have played their part in their poor recent form. They are entering this game on the back of one win and four defeats from seven matches in all competitions.
The latest of those setbacks came at home to Arsenal on Sunday and with Manchester United having moved six points clear in the race for the sixth position, West Ham are staring at Europa Conference League football unless they can turn things around on Thursday night.
For Frankfurt, a six-match winless streak has resulted in them dropping into the bottom half of the table, raising the stakes for Oliver Glasner to deliver a trophy in this competition and an unprecedented route to the Champions League.
The goals from Knauff and Daichi Kamada have put the Eagles very much in the driving seat, but it has certainly removed the underdog tag that has followed the club throughout the knockout stages, one which they have lived up to impressively.
Furthermore, Frankfurt have gone six matches without recording a home win in any competition, their only two victories in 11 outings coming at Barcelona and the home of their upcoming opponents, which will represent some poor reading for Glasner and his men.
Nevertheless, this is a team which has gone 11 matches unbeaten in this year’s competition, and extending that further will book their spot against Rangers or RB Leipzig in the final.
FORM (ALL COMPETITIONS)
Frankfurt recent form: L-W-L-D-W-L
West Ham recent form: L-W-D-L-L-L
WHEN & WHERE?
VENUE – Deutsche Bank Park.
DATE – Thursday, 5th May 2022.
TIME – 8 PM.
Frankfurt will be glad to welcome back both Evan Ndicka and Kristijan Jakic after they both missed the first leg through suspension.
However, the pair failed to impress at Bayer Leverkusen on Monday, and it could possibly mean that Glasner keeps faith with the same players who impressed in East London.
Djibril Sow, Daichi Kamada, Almamy Traore and Rafael Boree were rested against Leverkusen and should return for this pivotal fixture in their history.
Several players will also be handed recalls to the Hammers XI with Tomas Soucek and Michail Antonio only being named as substitutes in the defeat against Arsenal.
Defender Craig Dawson has served a domestic suspension and will surely start alongside Kurt Zouma and at the expense of Issa Diop who returned to the squad at the weekend, while Vladimir Coufal is an option at right-back ahead of Ben Johnson who should be fit for the game.
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Arguably the best performing Asian footballer in Europe over the past year. Eintracht Frankfurt’s Japanese magician Daichi Kamada is a stunning footballer, an efficient workhorse and a creative maestro.
Have a look at Frankfurt’s attacks and you’ll see how pivotal Kamada is, he is at the centre of almost everything.
His movement, the positions he picks up, the space he occupies and the passes he delivers is simply sublime and a testament to his extraordinary understanding and nous when it comes to creating chances for his teammates.
His goal last week was a fine example of the kind of ability he possesses in arriving in the box to be in the right place at the right time to influence Frankfurt’s attacking play.
The Japanese international may be something of an unknown quantity to some Premier League supporters, but he’s a player who currently deserves some rich acclaim and attention.
Nine goals and three assists so far this campaign follows on from the 17 goal contributions he recorded last term (5 goals, 12 assists).
Kamada is one of those players who manages to be technically impressive without being flamboyant. Carries the ball neatly, with some sumptuous little touches and swift shifts in direction, and he exploits passing angles and lanes in the attacking third in a way that’s so clever, intricate but unusual.
Again, West Ham will need to be on their toes to keep up with him, because he is indeed an intelligent little player who can hurt opposition defences before they even become aware of it.
He is certainly Frankfurt’s danger man in this tie.
16 goals and nine assists represent a stellar campaign for a player who consistently continues to excite and become a destructive presence for opposition defences.
It is clear the 25-year-old winger will be the Hammers’ main man in this game, and any hope they have of overturning the 2-1 deficit in Frankfurt’s favour will rest on the shoulders of the soon-to-be England international.
His goal against Arsenal on Sunday meant he is the first Hammers player to achieve a 16-goal feat since Marlon Harwood in the 2005/06 campaign.
It is because of his success, maturity and development this season that Premier League sides will now be scouring the Sky Bet Championship for some hidden gems to improve their sides in the future.
David Moyes will be hoping and praying Bowen is in tip-top condition to fire the club to the first-ever European final in their history. To grace such an occasion, you certainly need top tier footballers in the mould of the former Hull man.
It’s a huge chance for him to once again write his name in Hammers folklore.
Eintracht Frankfurt (3-4-2-1): Trapp (GK); Tuta, Hinteregger, Toure; Knauff, Sow, Rode, Kostic; Lindstrom, Kamada; Borre.
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Areola; Coufal, Dawson, Zouma, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Bowen, Lanzini, Fornals; Antonio.
Eintracht Frankfurt vs West Ham United: 1-2