West Ham United head into this evening’s Europa Conference League meeting with RSC Anderlecht knowing that a win against the Belgian side will all but confirm their passage through to the knockout stages of the competition.
Indeed, with a victory at Lotto Park seeing the Hammers move six points clear of their hosts at the top of Group B, aside from a disastrous collapse over the return legs of their group stage fixtures, the Irons will be playing European football once again after Christmas.
However, with David Moyes suggesting in his pre-match press conference that he could deploy something of a rotated side against the Jupiler Pro League outfit, Thursday’s fixture may well provide a number of the club’s fringe players a chance to impress the 59-year-old manager.
So, how many changes will the Scot make to the side that defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend? Here’s how we think West Ham could line up against Anderlecht, along with the latest team and injury news…
With Moyes revealing that Maxwel Cornet will miss Thursday’s fixture due to a calf strain picked up against Wolves, coupled with the Scot’s hint that he may start a number of his fringe players, we predict that the 59-year-old will make eight changes to his starting XI from that side that started at the London Stadium last Saturday.
The first of these alterations comes between the sticks, with cup goalkeeper Alphonse Areola replacing Lukasz Fabianski, while there are also three changes in the back four, with Emerson Palmieri, Angelo Ogbonna and the “sensational” – in the words of ExWHUemployee – Ben Johnson coming in for Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma and Thilo Kehrer respectively.
In the middle of the park, club captain Declan Rice starts alongside Flynn Downes, who takes the place of the largely underperforming Tomas Soucek, while Pablo Fornals, Manuel Lanzini and Said Benrahma come in for the injured Cornet, big-name summer signing Lucas Paqueta and Jarrod Bowen in the Hammers’ attacking midfield trio.
The final change comes up top, with Michail Antonio – who currently ranks as the best player in the Europa Conference League so far this season – replacing Gianluca Scamacca in an attempt to keep both centre-forwards as fresh as possible – with the Italian having started both of the Irons’ last two fixtures.