AZ Alkmaar vs West Ham Predictions: Hammers to hang in there
West Ham scraped to a 2-1 win in the first leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final and are likely to be pushed hard again by AZ Alkmaar at the AFAS Stadion on Thursday.
AZ responded with a 5-1 win on Sunday domestically over FC Emmen, while the Hammers were crushed 2-0 by Brentford, albeit having made nine changes, with David Moyes admitting his squad is "goosed" after a couple of long seasons.
However, they are unbeaten in the Conference League this term and will benefit from giving their top players either a bench role or leaving them out entirely at the Gtech Community Stadium.
It could be a fantastic game in North Holland, but the Hammers' experience of losing at this stage of last season's Europa League may give them an extra edge as the pair square off to face either Basel or Fiorentina on June 7 in Prague.
Goalkeeper Sam Westerveld (knee) and defender Bruno Martins Indi (hip) are absent for AZ Alkmaar but midfielders Dani de Wit and Jesper Karlsson are back available and featured as substitutes against Emmen.
Pantelis Hatzidiakos is free to play following a domestic suspension, while fellow defender Milos Kerkez should start after being banned for the game at the London Stadium.
West Ham are likely to make wholesale changes from the weekend, with striker Michail Antonio, who scored the winner last Thursday, set to return from a calf issue, while defender Angelo Ogbonna should be back from illness.
Another defender, Vladimir Coufal, has started light training after a hamstring issue but is likely to miss out here, as will striker Gianluca Scamacca, who is still recovering from knee surgery.
AZ have won their last three at home in all competitions, including beating Anderlecht 2-0 in the last round.
Having also played in this competition last season, De Kaasboeren are unbeaten in 12 at home in the Conference League.
Greek striker Vangelis Pavlidis netted both goals against Anderlecht and now has 22 strikes for club and country this season, five of them in this seasons Europa Conference League.
West Ham have lost their last three Premier League away games. However, they have been almost flawless on the road in Europe, winning five matches and drawing the other one.
They also have one of the competition's top scorers in Antonio, who last week took his tally to six for the tournament, one fewer than Fiorentina's Arthur Cabral.
After last season's Europa League heartache, West Ham have embraced this competition and will see a real chance to win their first piece of major silverware for 43 years.
They just about did enough last week on home soil and will now need to step things up to book their spot in next month's final.
AZ are a good side with home pedigree and they could hand starts to their returning stars De Wit and Karlsson.
With Pavlidis and Antonio on show, goals are likely and Over 3.5 could be an option on an entertaining night.
However, despite their mixed campaign, West Ham have often found a way to do enough and can get the draw they need to progress to next month's final in Prague.
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