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It was truly a game of inches in the English capital on Thursday evening, but the biggest European night in West Ham’s recent history started in the worst possible fashion as Ansgar Knauff finished at the back post with less than a minute on the clock.
While the Hammers did manage to respond before the half-time whistle via Michail Antonio‘s outstretched leg, Frankfurt ensured they would take a one-goal advantage back to base through Daichi Kamada before Jarrod Bowen‘s Puskas-worthy bicycle kick cannoned back off the crossbar and away from danger.
Amid their quest for Europa League glory, West Ham’s domestic fortunes have suffered a nosedive with two defeats and a draw from their last three in the Premier League, with last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Chelsea leaving them seventh in the table and three points adrift of Manchester United.
Wolverhampton Wanderers are also breathing down the necks of West Ham, whose best shot of securing a Champions League berth for 2022-23 undoubtedly lies in the Europa League, but Moyes will not want to relinquish the backup of a top-seven finish in the top flight in order to return to any form of continental competition.
Furthermore, West Ham welcome Arsenal to the London Stadium having scored in every one of their Premier League home matches this season, and they have taken 14 points from the last 18 on offer on home soil, but the Gunners know a thing or two about winning crucial away matches in the capital.
Craig Dawson‘s suspension, Angelo Ogbonna‘s lengthy recovery and Issa Diop‘s ankle issue have severely depleted Moyes’s options in the heart of defence, but Kurt Zouma made a quicker-than-expected recovery to play the full 90 against Frankfurt.
The Frenchman needed treatment towards the end of the contest but is unlikely to be rested given Moyes’s lack of options in that area, and Dawson’s suspension could see Ben Johnson move next to Zouma as Vladimir Coufal returns at right-back.
Nikola Vlasic and Andriy Yarmolenko should also be considered for starting roles as Moyes prioritises the second leg in Frankfurt, while ex-Gunner Lukasz Fabianski will replace Alphonse Areola in goal.
As for the Gunners, Arteta is reportedly expecting Bukayo Saka to be fit and well for the London derby, with the 20-year-old back in training alongside his teammates after being taken off against Man United.
Saka’s return would leave Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey as the Gunners’ only two absentees, with Takehiro Tomiyasu coming back as a late substitute against the Red Devils, but Arteta may be reluctant to throw him back in from the start just yet.
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Mohamed Elneny has filled in admirably alongside Granit Xhaka and should start again here, and Arteta may also opt to utilise Gabriel Martinelli‘s pace and directness against a jelly-legged West Ham defence.
West Ham United possible starting lineup:
Fabianski; Coufal, Johnson, Zouma, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Yarmolenko, Vlasic, Benrahma; Antonio
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Ramsdale; Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tavares; Xhaka, Elneny; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Nketiah