West Ham are preparing to take on Rapid Vienna in their fifth Europa League group stage match knowing a win will seal top spot in Group H.
The Hammers are on their way to Austria on Wednesday ahead of a fixture that is set to take place in an empty stadium after government rules placed the country into lockdown.
The occasion will certainly lose some of its luster without supporters present but none of its importance. Nothing but a win will do for Rapid if they want to keep their qualification hopes alive whilst three points wins the group for the Hammers and would allow Moyes the opportunity to rest his key men for the final group match against Dinamo Zagreb in December
Ahead of the game, football.london spoke to Simon Clark of The Other Bundesliga podcast to get the lowdown on Thursday’s opponents.
How have Rapid Vienna fared since their defeat to West Ham in London?
A lot has changed in Vienna since they last played – most importantly a new manager. Didi Kuhbauer was sacked on November 10 after a 4-1 mauling against league rivals Wolfsberger AC, which has actually been their only domestic defeat since their loss at the London Stadium, but performances were not good. The new men at the helm are interim managers Thomas Hickersberger and Steffen Hofmann, who got off to a winning start with a 1-0 win against Altach. Rapid currently sit 5th in the Austrian Bundesliga but crucially only two points clear of Austria Wien in the all-important race for a top-six spot to qualify for the Championship Round.
Who are the players West Ham should be worried about?
Nothing has changed really since the last time we spoke, Greek striker Taxi Fountas is back to some form alongside main man Ercan Kara who is starring for both club and country now, he’s been in decent form with 6 goals in his last 9 games.
Maximilian Ullmann is a great full-back and could probably move to a top 5 league further down the line, with young Austrian Marco Grull impressing too. Finally, young defenders Emanuel Aiwu and Leo Grieml are seen as two of Austrian football’s great young defensive hopes.
How did Rapid Vienna perform against Dinamo Zagreb in their last Europa League match?
It was a major setback because Rapid had taken the lead in Zagreb, but it was not a good performance and they succumbed to a 3-1 defeat. It really was a missed opportunity, however, Rapid had a long injury list heading into the match.
How do you rate Rapid’s chances of progression from the group?
Slim, but possible. A result against West Ham will be needed, and then a tough trip to Belgium on Match Day 6. I’d say progression to the Europa Conference League (3rd) is definitely more likely than qualification to the knockouts here.
Why should you sign up?
In each football.london West Ham bulletin, we’ll be bringing you the latest breaking news, transfer features and comment pieces, as well as the key talking points for fans.
We’ll also send special newsletters when big stories break or there’s a special event happening.
How do you sign up?
It’s easy and only takes seconds.
Simply type your email address into the box at the top of this article – or any article on the West Ham section of football.london in fact – labeled ‘Get the biggest daily stories by email’ and click ‘Subscribe’.
And that’s it, you’re all set.
If you decide later that you no longer wish to receive the emails, simply follow the unsubscribe link in one of the newsletters – but we do not think you’ll want to.
For more details, click here.
With the game being played behind closed doors what impact do you think this will have on the match?
A big impact. The match was a sell-out and to play an English club is always a special occasion for an Austrian team. The atmosphere would’ve been sensational. However due to the COVID lockdown this is no longer possible, but on the positive side Rapid had a very good home record behind closed doors so maybe this is a good omen!
What is your score prediction?
I’ll be an optimist and say a 1-1 draw.