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Europa League Quarter-final: Bayer Leverkusen vs West Ham United Preview & Lineups

 

Hammers Seek Redemption at the BayArena: West Ham Face Uphill Battle Against Confident Leverkusen

The Europa League quarter-finals take center stage on Thursday night as Bayer Leverkusen host West Ham United at the BayArena. The first leg saw a dominant display from the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions, Leverkusen, who secured a comfortable 2-0 victory at the London Stadium. West Ham, last season's Europa Conference League winners, face a daunting task in Germany, needing a comeback to keep their European dream alive.

Bayer Leverkusen: Riding a High Wave

Xabi Alonso's Leverkusen side are brimming with confidence. Fresh off their first Bundesliga title in 120 years, they are determined to add the Europa League trophy to their cabinet. Their attacking prowess is undeniable, with Moussa Diaby and Patrik Schick forming a potent partnership upfront. The midfield trio of Florian Wirtz, Exequiel Palacios, and Robert Andrich provides creativity and control in the center of the park. Leverkusen will be looking to exploit any defensive frailties from West Ham and seal their passage to the semi-finals with a convincing performance.

West Ham United: Uphill Battle for the Hammers

David Moyes' West Ham United side face a monumental task in Germany. Injuries to key players like Jarrod Bowen and the suspension of Lucas Paqueta have hampered their attacking options. The Hammers will need to find a way to break down a resolute Leverkusen defense and score at least twice to take the tie to extra time. Michail Antonio's physical presence upfront will be crucial, while Declan Rice's leadership and experience in midfield will be vital if West Ham are to pull off an unlikely comeback.

First Leg Recap: A Dominant Display from Leverkusen

The first leg at the London Stadium was a one-sided affair. Leverkusen took control from the outset, stifling West Ham's attacking threat. Second-half goals from Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface sealed the victory for the visitors. West Ham will need a significant improvement in both attack and defense to overturn the deficit.

Predicted Lineups:

Bayer Leverkusen (4-3-3): Hradecky; Frimpong, Tah, Hincapie, Bakker; Palacios, Andrich, Wirtz; Diaby, Schick, Adli

West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Areola; Johnson, Dawson, Zouma, Coufal; Soucek, Rice; Benrahma, Fornals, Lanzini; Antonio

Key Matchup: Wirtz vs. Rice

The battle between Leverkusen's young prodigy, Florian Wirtz, and West Ham's experienced anchorman, Declan Rice, will be a fascinating duel. Wirtz's creativity and dribbling ability provide a constant threat for Leverkusen, while Rice's defensive awareness and tackling prowess are crucial for West Ham. The player who dominates this midfield battle could swing the outcome of the tie.

Prediction:

The odds are stacked heavily in favor of Leverkusen. Their home advantage, coupled with their current form and first-leg victory, makes them clear favorites. However, West Ham have shown their fighting spirit in Europe throughout the season. Don't expect them to go down without a fight.

Score Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 West Ham United (Leverkusen win 4-0 on aggregate)

This prediction reflects Leverkusen's current momentum and West Ham's injury concerns. However, football is full of surprises. Tune in on Thursday for what could be a tense and dramatic encounter between these two European hopefuls.

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