West Ham have been impressive in the Europa League this season, and Kevin Hatchard thinks they'll nail down a place in the knockout stage with an eye-catching victory...
"Rapid have improved at home recently, and are scoring plenty of goals. West Ham should win the game, but they may well concede a goal along the way."
Rapid Vienna v West Ham
Thursday 25 November, 17:45
Live on BT Sport 1
Austrian giants swing the axe
It's been a rough season for Rapid Vienna, and there were finally some consequences, as popular coach Dietmar Kuhbauer was dismissed following a 4-1 hammering at Wolfsberger AC. He had been in charge since 2018, and had delivered a couple of runners-up spots, but this season has been a debacle from the get-go.
Rapid are 20 points adrift of the perennial leaders Salzburg, and perhaps more importantly, the capital club are five points behind second-placed Sturm Graz, having played a game more. Former Rapid player Thomas Hickersberger has stepped up to coach the team alongside ex-Rapid and Bayern midfielder Stefan Hoffmann.
At least the home form has picked up recently. Rapid have won their last three games in Vienna, scoring nine goals in the process. They still have plenty to play for, as they are only three points behind second-placed Dinamo Zagreb with two matchdays remaining.
Rapid's biggest problem is their injury list, which is extensive. It includes centre-back Christopher Dibon and first-choice goalkeeper Richard Strebinger.
Hammers aren't home and hosed yet
The change to the Europa League format has introduced a bit more jeopardy in the group stage this season, as only the eight group winners are guaranteed a place in the last 16. If you finish as a runner-up, you have to take on a Champions League dropout in a playoff. That's not a risk that Hammers boss David Moyes will want to take, and a defeat in Austria would open the group up, with Dinamo Zagreb still to visit East London.
West Ham have paid this competition due respect so far, and that approach has yielded dividends. Had it not been for the concession of a late leveller in Belgium against Genk, they would have a 100% record at this stage. On the road, the Hammers have generally been excellent, winning six of their nine away games this term in all competitions.
There will of course be some concessions to a packed schedule. Alphonse Areola will once again deputise for Lukasz Fabianski in goal, Craig Dawson and Issa Diop are likely to feature in defence, while Moyes has the option of fielding veteran Mark Noble in midfield.
Hammers can win exciting game
Rapid have been scoring plenty of goals of late (they have found the net in their last nine outings in all competitions) and although I think they'll be outclassed here in the end, I can see them scoring against a West Ham side that hasn't kept a clean sheet for nearly a month.
You can back West Ham to win at 1.645/8, but if you back them to win and both teams to score, that price jumps to 3.185/40.
Bet on Benrahma drama
Said Benrahma has enjoyed this competition so far. He found the net against Rapid in the reverse fixture, and he scored twice at Genk on Matchday Four. The former Brentford star has scored six goals this term, and if he starts, back him to score here at a hefty 3.613/5.
Rapid's chief goal threat comes from Taxiarchis Fountas. He has netted nine goals this term, including two in his last six games. He can be back to score at 4.03/1.
Kevin Hatchard 2021-22 Europa League P/L
Points Staked: 24
Points Returned: 19.62
P/L: -4.38 points
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