Thursday's Europa Conference League predictions: Hammers could struggle in Cyprus
- Recommended bets:
- Back AEK Larnaca or Tie in Double Chance
- Back Draw between Anderlecht vs Villarreal
- Back Fiorentina to win and Both Teams to Score
The Europa Conference League has reached the last-16 stage with the first legs taking place on Thursday, including a trip to Cyprus for out-of-form West Ham.
There is also a tasty-looking tie between Belgian giants Anderlecht and LaLiga outfit Villarreal to look forward to, while Italian side Fiorentina face Turkish team Sivasspor in what should be an entertaining affair in Florence.
AEK Larnaca vs West Ham (Thursday, 5.45pm)
AEK Larnaca are second in the Cypriot first division, the position they ended up last term, and are two points behind leaders APOEL.
However, AEK are not in great form, winning just two of their last five games.
Larnaca reached this stage of the competition thanks to a 1-0 win over Dnipro-1 in the previous round.
They finished third in their Europa League group to drop into the Europa Conference League.
West Ham, who have won just one of their last six matches in all competitions, went all the way to the semi-finals of the Europa League last season before losing to eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt.
AEK Larnaca are the opponents for the only British side left in the third-tier European competition and David Moyes' men will be wary of taking on a side doing well in their domestic division and keen to pull off a shock against Premier League opponents, especially if the Scot opts to make wholesale changes.
With the Hammers, who were beaten 4-0 by Brighton on Saturday, right in the relegation scrap at home, Moyes could decide risking key men getting injured in Europe is not worth the risk so a rotated West Ham squad could struggle to impose themselves in this first leg.
This, therefore, could be a tricky evening for the Londoners and backing a home win or a draw may well be the astute selection.
Anderlecht vs Villarreal (Thursday, 5.45pm)
After finishing third in the Belgian top flight last season, Anderlecht sit down in 10th place and are 10 points adrift of the top four after a disappointing campaign so far.
They are still in contention in Europe, though, having finished second in their Europa Conference group, behind West Ham, and saw off Ludogorets on penalties in the previous round.
Villarreal are sixth in LaLiga, and have won their last two matches after a previous poor run which had seen them lose four games straight.
This could be tricky to call and, while Spanish side Villarreal, who were Champions League semi-finalists last year, should probably be viewed as slight favourites, Anderlecht can earn a draw.
The hosts have been inconsistent overall this term, and have won just one of their last five games in all competitions.
However, they have a good home record in the Europa Conference League, winning four games, drawing two one and losing twice — one of which saw them win a penalty shootout to progress — so they will be difficult to beat on Thursday.
Fiorentina vs Sivasspor (Thursday, 8pm)
Fiorentina are down in a disappointing 12th place in Serie A but approach this tie in good form, winning four of their last five matches in all competitions.
Sivasspor have been equally underwhelming in the Turkish top flight, sitting in 14th spot, but they too have improved of late and have picked up four wins in their last six games.
Both teams have been in the goals of late, with Fiorentina scoring 13 in their last five outings in an unbeaten run in which they have only failed to win once, while securing a confidence-boosting win over AC Milan on Saturday.
Sivasspor have managed 10 goals in their last five while they have not been blanked in any of their last six away games, so backing a home win with both to find the back of the net could be the way to go.