The London Stadium plays host to one of the biggest nights in West Ham United’s history on Thursday evening, as the Hammers welcome Lyon for the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie.
David Moyes’s men defeated Sevilla 2-1 on aggregate to reach the last eight, while Les Gones – in spite of their domestic troubles – managed to get the better of Porto by the same scoreline over two legs.
Some scripts are just meant to be written, but not even Shakespeare himself could have foretold the magnificent drama which unfolded in the English capital when West Ham welcomed Sevilla for the second leg of their last-16 tie.
After going down 1-0 to Julen Lopetegui’s men in Spain, Moyes’s side forced extra time through Tomas Soucek’s header just before half time, and Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko would write his name into Hammers folklore with the decisive goal after 112 minutes.
A potential glamour tie with Barcelona did not materialise for West Ham, but a meeting with the Catalans could await them in the semi-finals should they get there, and they enter Thursday’s game having just seen off Everton 2-1 in the Premier League.
What Moyes has achieved with this West Ham side in such a short space of time is nothing short of remarkable, and having won each of their last four at the London Stadium in all competitions, Lyon – despite their stature – are certainly not travelling to London as favourites.
West Ham have also scored in each one of their home games since the turn of the year and have only shipped three goals in their last six matches at the London Stadium, so the home crowd can be forgiven for dreaming big on the continental stage.
Given their mid-table standing in Ligue 1, the Europa League arguably represents Lyon’s best chance of returning to continental competition for the 2022-23 season, and Peter Bosz breathed a sigh of relief as his crop ultimately got the job done against Porto.
Lucas Paqueta’s strike in the first leg handed Les Gones a slender advantage before locking horns with their Portuguese counterparts at the Groupama Stadium, where Moussa Dembele’s early effort made Porto’s task that little bit harder, and they could not complete a remarkable turnaround despite attacker Pepe’s consolation.
Bosz’s side sure could do with success on the continental stage while they languish in mid-table obscurity in Ligue 1, and they made hard work of their meeting with Angers at the weekend but prevailed 3-2 thanks to a winner from Shakhtar Donetsk loanee Tete.
Only once before have Lyon managed to make it past the quarter-finals of the Europa League in its current format – going down to Ajax in the semi-finals in 2016-17 – but they have impressively won each of their last six away from home in the competition since a 1-0 loss to Atalanta BC in December 2017.
West Ham and Lyon have never locked horns competitively before, but Les Gones have won just one of their previous six encounters against clubs from the English capital and can take nothing for granted as the bubbles blow in force around the London Stadium.
West Ham United Europa League form:
West Ham United form (all competitions):
Lyon Europa League form:
Lyon form (all competitions):
We say: West Ham United 2-2 Lyon
Neither West Ham nor Lyon need lessons in finding the back of the net, and an entertaining spectacle should await us at the London Stadium – one in which we just cannot pick a clear winner.
Les Gones’ treatment room has started to fill up again in recent weeks, but the attacking depth at Bosz’s disposal makes it difficult to envisage a defeat for Lyon in the first leg, and a high-scoring draw could be on the cards on Thursday night.