West Ham v Bayer Leverkusen: Europa League quarter-final, second leg – live | Europa League


Key events

I wonder why Alonso has made those changes. Frimpong certainly seemed to celebrate well the other day but I imagine the rotation is because he’s got the Cup, Europe and the unbeaten record to defend so, with a 2-0 lead, this is a decent time to make changes – especially given the quality of his squad. On which point, I’m really looking forward to seeing who arrives in the summer, because one big sale plus Champions League money equals decent scope in the market.

The return of Jarrod Bowen is a massive boon for West Ham. Obviously he scores goals, but more than that, he’s stepped up a level this season – this isn’t a run of form º and his teammates know they can rely on him.

Elsewhere: in the Conference, Lille lead Villa 2-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate with 10 minutes to go.

Leverkusen, meanwhile, make changes from the first leg too. Out go Edmund Tapsoba, Jeremie Frimpong and Amine Adli, with Piero Hincapié, Odilon Kossounou and Nathan Tella coming on. They too change from 3-4-2-1 to 4-2-3-1.

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West Ham are without Lucas Paquetá, who’s suspended – that’s a massive miss – but his replacement is Edson Álvarez, who was suspended for the first leg. Otherwise, Konstantinos Mavropanos and Emerson drop out, with Nayef Aguerd and Jarrod Bowen coming in. As a consequence, there’s also a formation-change, from 3-4-2-1 to 4-2-3-1 or, as Uefa have it, 4-3-3.

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I’ll write those down, then we’ll wonder what they might mena.

Teams!

West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Coufal, Zouma, Aguerd, Cresswell; Ward-Prowse, Alvarez; Kudus, Soucek, Bowen; Antonio. Subs: Anang, Knightbridge, Johnson, Cornet, Ings, Ogbonna, Casey, Mubama, Swyer, Orford.

Bayer Leverkusen (4-2-3-1): Kovar; Stanisic, Tah, Kossounou, Hincapie; Xhaka, Palacios; Tella, Wirtz, Grimaldo; Schick. Subs: Hradecky, Lomb, Hofmann, Andrich, Tapsoba, Arthur, Adli, Boniface, Frimpong, Puerta, Izekor.

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Preamble

Bundesliga champions, DFB-Pokal finalists and an overall record of Played 43 Won 38 Drawn 5 Lost 0; somehow, Xabi Alonso has magicked Neverkusen into Everkusen and his squad stand on the cusp of one of football’s all-time great seasons.

In a sense they’ve already started next term too, retaining the services of their manager despite stiff competition for them. So, with that decided and the pressure of a title race converted into ecstatic relief, they arrive in London looking and feeling impregnable.

Not so fast. While it’s true that Victor Boniface’s injury-time goal which turned 1-0 into 2-0 seemed like the decisive moment of this tie, West Ham have won every European home game across the last two seasons and, like almost every Premier League side, have the artillery to hurt any opponent – if they can get enough of the ball.

Which is a big “if”, granted, but Leverkusen will only progress if they’re able to contain Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio and Mohammed Kudus – while dealing with West Ham’s threat at set-pieces, and that too is a not insubstantial “if”. Chances are they find a way because that’s what they do, but if they’re still celebrating their weekend triumph and even if they’re not, tonight will be a serious challenge.

Kick-off: 8pm BST

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