West Ham and Rangers will be in Europa League semi-final action on Thursday as Jose Mourinho’s Roma take on Leicester in the Europa Conference League.
Moyes: We can be a match for any team at home
As West Ham gear up to play Eintracht Frankfurt in their first leg match up of the Europa League semi-finals, manager David Moyes showed great confidence in his players.
The first leg will be played at the London Stadium on Thursday evening, where Moyes’ Hammers have picked up some big wins over the course of this season.
He said: “I think our home form this year’s been pretty good. We’ve had some good results.
“I think we’re worthy of it. Beating Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea shows that on our home patch on our day, we can be a good match for any team.”
Though confident in his squad, it appears the magnitude of a European semi-final is still very surreal for Moyes. He added: “It’s a great game. We’re hugely excited by it. The thrill of qualifying last year was great.
“If you’d have said to us last year, you’d be in the semi-finals with a chance of getting to the final, I’d have said ‘you’re joking.”
For West Ham to qualify for the semi-finals of the Europa League is a great feat, but Moyes and his team have further ambitions.
“The players have got better and even our style, how we’ve played and their development, so many of the players have improved individually.
”We brought in a couple of boys, but nearly all of the players who have played here have improved individually, or they wouldn’t be playing at this level of European football.
“They’re all seeing this as a great moment for them. The semi-final sounds good, but the final sounds even better.”
Noble: I will still retire if West Ham win Europa League
Mark Noble insists he will not go back on his decision to retire at the end of the season even if West Ham win the Europa League.
David Moyes’ side face German outfit Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday in the first leg of their semi-final and know winning the competition would be a ticket to the Champions League, but Noble says even that would not tempt him to keep playing.
“I’ve been asked this question so many times by so many people,” the club captain said. “The reason we would get into the Champions League is by winning the Europa League.
“Winning the Europa League and lifting the trophy, would I come back? No. And that’s my honest answer. To end on that would be pretty special.
“I was joking with the lads the other day, saying if that did happen, I’d happily come watch the Champions League games with the Europa League trophy on the next chair. But that is way down the line.”
West Ham team news
David Moyes remained coy on team news, saying: “We’ve got most people available at the weekend available again, and we’ve got some people making good recoveries, but we don’t know if they’ll be ready yet.
“Angelo Ogbonna’s back, he only came back this week. When I say ‘back’ I mean back in the building, so I would be amazed if he played before the end of the season.
“Kurt Zouma’s back doing some light work – he’s ahead of schedule which is really good – and Issa Diop is actually doing quite well as well.
“He just feels a little better than we first hoped, so there’s a bit of positivity around those players, and because of that, it’s given us a bit of positivity it won’t be quite as long as we thought it would be.”
Noble admitted his farewell tour has been even better than he could have imagined as the club he joined as a 16-year-old have gone toe-to-toe with some European heavyweights.
“Did I imagine it? Yes. Did I think this would happen? Probably no,” he added. “This season for me, after announcing that this would be my last, has been special. It’s not over yet.
“We’ve got an incredible game here and probably a bigger game in a week’s time. To be able to enjoy that with the West Ham fans, with the players and staff, is an incredible achievement.
“Do I think it’s possible to win? Yes. It will be tough, because the three other teams in this situation will be thinking the same. The fans behind us, the fans who will travel to Frankfurt, I have crossed my fingers since we beat Lyon.”
West Ham vs Eintracht Frankfurt – Opta stats
- West Ham and Eintracht Frankfurt have been matched up for the second time in European competition, with West Ham previously eliminating the German side at the semi-final stage of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1975-76.
- Eintracht Frankfurt are the fourth side to reach the semi-finals of the Europa League still unbeaten having partaken in the group stages – two of the previous three went on to lift the trophy (Villarreal in 2020-21 and Chelsea in 2018-19), with only Liverpool in 2015-16 not ultimately winning the competition.
- West Ham have reached the semi-final stage of a major competition for the first time since 2013-14, when they lost 0-9 on aggregate against Manchester City in the League Cup. David Moyes’ last semi-final came in the other League Cup semi-final that season, with his Manchester United side being eliminated by Sunderland.
- Eintracht Frankfurt have kept just one clean sheet across their last 18 Europa League matches, conceding in each of the last eight in a row. Despite conceding in eight straight games, they remain unbeaten across those matches – they are the first team in Europa League history to concede in eight or more games in a row without being beaten.
- David Moyes is the first Scottish manager to reach the semi-final stage of the UEFA Cup/Europa League since 2007-08, when Walter Smith took Rangers all the way to the final.
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst wants his players to block out any outside pressure and leave nothing on the pitch against RB Leipzig as they aim to reach a European final for the first time in 14 years.
“You just have to concentrate on the preparations and block all the pressure you get from outside to win this leg,” said Van Bronckhorst.
“That’s what the players have to do, just make sure we prepare as normal and once the whistle goes, go into the game and give everything you have on the pitch.
Rangers team news
Rangers travel to Germany without strikers Alfredo Morelos and Kemar Roofe as both are ruled out through injury.
The manager has Fashion Sakala available for the game in Germany while Scott Wright stepped up at the weekend to score in the 3-1 win away to Motherwell.
There are no new injury concerns ahead of the match and Van Bronckhorst insists he has “made plans” after watching Leipzig closely.
“Of course playing a European semi-final is exciting but we have to overcome a tough team, we have watched Leipzig play a lot of games and are well prepared.
“We have the belief, but you need a good performance as well tomorrow and next week.
“The confidence is there but also we know we have to perform again and everything we have achieved in the past doesn’t count against Leipzig.
“We’re just preparing well for these two games and I’m very confident in my team and sure we can put good performances in to have a chance of reaching the final.”
McGregor hails ‘unbelievable’ feat of reaching Europa semi-final
Allan McGregor reflected on Rangers’ “unbelievable achievement” in reaching the last four of the Europa League ahead of Thursday’s semi-final first leg.
McGregor, who was at the Ibrox club 14 years ago but missed out through injury when Rangers finished runners-up in the UEFA Cup in 2008, said the Light Blues’ recent continental feats were up there with the most satisfying elements of a long and successful career.
“Three and a half years ago, I don’t think anybody thought we would qualify for the groups,” the goalkeeper said. “And then each year we have progressed.
“I don’t know how we are going to progress next year, right enough. But it has been an unbelievable achievement from all the boys and staff throughout the three and a half years.
“It has been a good run. Whether it is the best or most consistent run… it probably is. I don’t look back at history on that. It has definitely got to be up there.”
“I never thought it was going to happen, to be honest with you. I have said it a million times – you just take each game as it comes. We have done well and we deserve to be here.
“I am obviously glad we are here. It will be a big occasion for the club, a big occasion for the players and we just need to go and enjoy it.”
RB Leipzig vs Rangers – Opta stats
- Rangers have won just two of their last 24 matches in European competition away to German opposition (D9 L13), although one of those wins came at their last such attempt, defeating Borussia Dortmund in the play-offs in February.
- RB Leipzig have reached their second major European semi-final within their first five seasons in European competition, having also reached this stage of the UEFA Champions League in 2019-20.
- Rangers have reached the semi-final stage of a major European competition for the seventh time overall and for the first time since 2007-08, when they finished as runners-up to Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Cup. Rangers have now equalled Celtic (7) for the most semi-finals contested in major European competition among Scottish clubs.
- RB Leipzig’s participation in this tie means at least one team that has dropped down from the Champions League has reached the semi-finals of the Europa League in each season since 2015-16, though no such side has gone on to win the competition in any of the last three campaigns, with Atlético de Madrid the last to do so in 2017-18.
Rodgers: Mourinho still has the X-Factor
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers believes Jose Mourinho still has the X-Factor ahead of their European showdown.
The Foxes welcome Roma for the first leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final on Thursday. It is Mourinho’s first game back in England since being sacked by Tottenham last year.
His Roma side sit fifth in Serie A and, after being head of youth at Chelsea during Mourinho’s first spell at Stamford Bridge, Rodgers remains a big supporter.
Leicester team news
Jamie Vardy is in contention for Leicester. The striker returned from the bench for the weekend’s draw with Aston Villa after a knee injury.
Eldin Jakupovic remains out, but Boubakary Soumare could return. Wilfred Ndidi and Ryan Bertrand remain sidelined with their own knee issues.
He said: “He has nothing to prove to anyone. He will always be a winner. I cannot speak any higher of him. He is one of the greats of our generation.
“He had the X-Factor. There wasn’t one single thing. He was brilliant in so many aspects of the game. Detail-orientated, man management of the players, his understanding of the tactical adaptation of the game, he had that special quality I was able to see.
“I have got nothing but admiration for him. I became a manager in my own right but I will never forget what I gained from him as a young coach. I studied him and watched him and at that time it was a really special period.”
“It’s a prestigious competition, all four teams will want to win it. It’s a fantastic occasion against a top-class team. To get to the final we will do everything we can. It’s another symbol of our growth as a club.”
Ricardo Pereira scored the Foxes’ late winner in their 2-1 semi-final second-leg win at PSV earlier this month and recognises the magnitude of the game.
He said: “It’s the first semi-final for the club and we have the opportunity to arrive in a final in European competition, it’s a big achievement. We are all aware of that and that’s why it’s a big game for us.
“We have a bit of a taste of winning a competition (the FA Cup), that helps us but I don’t think it’ll be a major difference (against Roma). They have good players who play in national teams, like Sergio (Oliveira) who plays with me, so it won’t make any difference.”