UEFA Europa League

West Ham v Freiburg: Moyes' men to produce a famous comeback

West Ham boss David Moyes
Despite his recent success, David Moyes isn't universally popular at West Ham

After a narrow defeat in southern Germany, West Ham are up against it in the Europa League, but Kevin Hatchard believes they can bounce back against Freiburg...

West Ham v Freiburg
Thursday 14 March, 17:45
Live on TNT Sports

Uneasy vibe doesn't match positive season

Given West Ham's stature - a traditional club with a passionate fanbase, but not one with a history of challenging for major honours - it seems curious that there should be such angst around the club at present. The Hammers won the Europa Conference League last season, they have once again reached the knockout phase of a European competition.

In the Premier League West Ham are a creditable seventh, above Chelsea, Newcastle and Brighton. At no stage this term has the spectre of relegation been allowed to materialise. And yet, there are huge reservations about manager David Moyes' pragmatic style of play, and there is a clear disconnect between how Moyes wants to take the club forward, and the views of sporting director Tim Steidten. Moyes is set to sign a new contract, and as things stand he will leave in the summer.

The Hammers certainly have had some low points recently. They were utterly abject in a 6-0 demolition at home to Arsenal, they limply went out of the FA Cup at Bristol City, and at the weekend they had to come from behind to draw 2-2 with a Burnley side that has been distinctly uncompetitive in the Premier League this season.

However, there are reasons to be cheerful. West Ham won all three of their home matches in the group stage, and in the UECL last term they won all seven of their matches at the London Stadium. Indeed, West Ham haven't suffered a home defeat in Europe since their Europa League semi-final loss to Eintracht Frankfurt in April 2022.

Maxwel Cornet is still struggling with a hamstring injury, but Edson Alvarez and Kurt Zouma are expected to return to the starting line-up. Star players Mohammed Kudus and Lucas Paqueta are fit and have the chance to put a real stamp on this tie.

Freiburg digging deep to keep season on track

Freiburg are used to upsetting the odds, and is it remarkable that not only are they in with a chance of reaching the quarter-finals of the Europa League, but they still have an opportunity to qualify for Europe for the third season running. The Black Forest side won 2-1 at Bochum at the weekend, a win that keeps them seven points off the top six.

Although they could have conceded a last-gasp leveller from the penalty spot last week, Freiburg still had plenty of heroes in their 1-0 win over West Ham. German U21 international Noah Atubolu had one of his best games for the club, making a superb save from Jarrod Bowen in the second half, Roland Sallai played with his usual energy and determination, and the in-form Michael Gregoritsch played the role of super-sub to perfection, coming on to score the winning goal.

The fear for Freiburg is that their form away from the Europa Park Stadion is nowhere near as good as it is in southern Germany. This term they have lost 3-0 at Bayern, 2-1 at Bayer Leverkusen, 3-1 at RB Leipzig and 3-0 at Borussia Dortmund. Perhaps even more worrying is that they have already lost 2-0 at West Ham in this season's group stage. Overall, SCF have lost five of their last eight away games in all competitions.

Matthias Ginter came off late in the weekend win at Bochum, but is expected to start here. The in-form defender is managing an ongoing Achilles problem.

Hammers can march into the quarter-finals

West Ham are 2.0421/20 to qualify here, and with raucous backing at the London Stadium I think they can turn the tie around. Freiburg were pretty fortunate to win the first leg, and their away performances against teams from the top bracket of the Bundesliga simply haven't been good enough to suggest they can protect a lead here.

If we back West Ham to qualify, then even if they make it through via extra time or penalties, we still secure an odds-against winner.

Back West Ham to qualify at 2.0421/20

Bet here

Kudus to star in big Bet Builder

Mohammed Kudus hasn't scored since he returned from the African Cup of Nations, but it's not for want of trying. The Ghana international has had at least one shot on target in five of his last seven games in all competitions. Of those seven games, he's had at least three shots in five of them, and at least two in all of them.

The next leg of my Bet Builder is West Ham to qualify, as I've already explained, and the final part is Freiburg veteran Nicolas Höfler to be shown a card at 23/10. The 33-year-old is a proper midfield battler, and he has collected eight bookings this term, including cautions in two of his last four games. In a white-hot atmosphere with runners all around him, I think he can be tempted to make a rash challenge or two.

That gives us a combined price on the Bet Builder of 10.28.

Back West Ham to qualify, Kudus to have a shot on target and Hofler to be carded at 10.28

Bet here

Now read Kev's latest Bet of the Day here!

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