Freiburg vs West Ham predictions: Group A favourites to share the spoils
West Ham and Freiburg are both hotly fancied to escape Europa League Group A after their respective matchday one victories and each will have their eyes on top spot and the prize of avoiding the knockout-round playoffs.
And while Hammers fans enjoyed a carefree waltz to victory when hosting Backa Topola in the opening group-stage game, this trip to Germany represents a significant step up in quality.
Freiburg reached the Europa League Round of 16 last season — where they were unlucky to draw Italian giants Juventus — and only missed out on a place in the Champions League after stumbling in the final weeks of the 2022-23 Bundesliga campaign.
But Europa Conference League champions West Ham will fear no-one after making a bright start to 2023-24 and travel to Germany full of expectation.
West Ham attacker Jarrod Bowen could be rested after picking up a knock against Sheffield United last weekend.
Left-back Aaron Cresswell is also unlikely to be risked as he recovers from a hamstring injury.
Freiburg are without long-term absentees Christian Günter (broken arm) in defence and midfielder Daniel-Kofi Kyereh (knee).
Midfielder Yannik Keitel hobbled off last weekend and is unlikely to feature while back-up goalkeeper Benjamin Uphoff has a groin strain.
West Ham have won only two Premier League games against teams not newly promoted this season but both were impressive, seeing off both Chelsea and Brighton 3-1.
David Moyes’ men have also beaten Sheffield United and Luton, while their only defeats have come against Liverpool and Manchester City.
The Hammers’ 3-1 victory over Backa Topola a fortnight ago made it 16 matches unbeaten in Europe and while 15 of those came in the lower-level Europa Conference League, they won 14 of them.
Last season, Freiburg topped a tricky Europa League section containing Nantes, Qarabag and Olympiacos without losing a single match.
Having again been paired with Olympiacos this term, the Germans recorded an impressive 3-2 win in Greece on matchday one.
Both teams will fancy their chances of claiming a crucial victory but they may have to settle for a point apiece.
Moyes has made West Ham hard to beat both domestically and in Europe, with only Manchester City and Liverpool in the last 10 outings able to defeat the Hammers, who have beaten the likes of Chelsea, Brighton and Fiorentina in that run.
But they may struggle to take all three points against a Freiburg side who have lost only two of nine matches in all competitions this season, with one of those coming when down to 10 men against Borussia Dortmund.
Moyes would love to get this group wrapped up early and victory in Germany would go a long way to achieving that.
But the likely absence of Bowen — one of his key attacking threats — undermines their hopes and a draw would not be a bad result for either team.
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