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Europa League | Round of 16 | 1st Leg
Mar 7, 2024 at 8pm UK
Schwarzwald-Stadion
WH

Freiburg
1 - 0
West Ham

Preview: Freiburg vs. West Ham United - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Freiburg vs. West Ham United - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Freiburg and West Ham United, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Having already butted heads twice in the group stage, Freiburg and West Ham United will immediately reunite for the first leg of their Europa League last-16 clash on Thursday night at the Europa-Park Stadion.

David Moyes's men prevailed in both of their previous battles in Group A, thereby earning a direct ticket to the last 16 and forcing their German foes to do it the hard way against Lens in the playoffs.


Match preview

Club heritage had already been made for Freiburg before they first kicked a ball in the 2023-24 Europa League, as the Bundesliga powerhouses celebrated back-to-back continental qualifications for the first time in their history, and Christian Streich's men proved too strong for Olympiacos and Backa Tapola a few months ago.

However, owing to a 2-1 home defeat to West Ham and 2-0 beatdown at the London Stadium, Freiburg were forced to be content with a second-placed finish in Group A, despite racking up a remarkable 17 goals throughout the group stage; only Bayer Leverkusen (19) struck more.

Champions League drop-outs Lens would await Streich's side in the playoffs, and after a goalless first leg in France, the Breisgau Brazilians edged an engrossing second leg thanks to a stunning second-half comeback, where Roland Sallai's brace cancelled out Elye Wahi and David Costa's efforts before Michael Gregoritsch had the final say in extra time.

By snatching victory from the jaws of elimination, Freiburg are just 180 minutes away from achieving their best-ever run in Europe - they lost to Juventus at this stage of the 2022-23 Europa League - and Streich's men became the latest team to take points off of faltering Bayern Munich in last Friday's 2-2 Bundesliga draw.

As laudable as their feats against the champions were, the 3-2 extra-time beating of Lens marks Freiburg's only win from their last eight matches across all competitions, and the Breisgau Brazilians have conceded at least twice in each of their last five games on familiar territory.

Upcoming opponents West Ham could certainly share Freiburg's pain when it came to abysmal defensive displays at home, but less than a month on from shipping six to Arsenal at a half-empty London Stadium, things are starting to look a little rosier for the Europa Conference League champions.

That 6-0 slaughter at the hands of the Gunners represented the second of three successive losses for the Irons, who conceded 11 goals and scored zero in that sequence, but after trying and failing to win any of their first eight games in 2024, the Irons are now revelling in back-to-back triumphs.

After hat-trick hero Jarrod Bowen inspired a 4-2 Premier League beating of Brentford, a late show from the Hammers saw Thursday's visitors come out on the correct end of a 3-1 scoreline against Everton, sneaking back into the top seven of the rankings in the process.

West Ham's Premier League standing would only be Europa Conference League-worthy, but the reigning champions of that competition now have bigger continental aspirations in mind as they gear up for just their second Europa League knockout appearance after losing to Eintracht Frankfurt in the 2021-22 semis.

En route to a first-placed finish in Group A, Moyes's men dropped just three points and won each of their last three fixtures without conceding a goal - the last of which was their 2-0 success at home to Freiburg on December 14 - and the Hammers could now beat a single opponent three times in one European campaign for the first time in their 128-year history.

Freiburg Europa League form:


Freiburg form (all competitions):


West Ham United Europa League form:


West Ham United form (all competitions):


Team News

Freiburg emerged unscathed physically from their draw with Bayern Munich, and Lukas Kubler (hip) has recovered in time for the first leg, but Streich remains without Daniel Kofi-Kyereh (ACL), Max Rosenfelder (tendon) and Kenneth Schmidt (abdominal) for the time being.

Philipp Lienhart - who is one caution away from a Europa League suspension - also missed the draw with the champions due to a groin strain, which he has spent two-and-a-half months recovering from, although he is due to return to training this week.

Streich has ruled Lienhart out of the clash with the Hammers, though, so Manuel Gulde and Matthias Ginter - only just back from an Achilles issue - should form the central barrier in Streich's 4-4-2.

As far as West Ham are concerned, Moyes's men have been extremely fortunate on the injury front in 2024 and only have one definite absentee to work around for the first leg; Maxwel Cornet is nursing a thigh concern and may not be back until the end of the month.

Edson Alvarez - who capped off a masterful midfield display against Everton with his first Premier League goal - and Emerson Palmieri will both sit out the second leg if they are cautioned at the Europa-Park Stadion, but hypotheticals should not come into Moyes's thinking here.

At least one change can still be expected from the Hammers boss, who should hand the gloves back over to Lukasz Fabianski - captain of five of West Ham's group-stage games - but Nayef Aguerd might not come into consideration for a recall due to a "question mark" over his fitness.


Freiburg possible starting lineup:
Atubolu; Sildillia, Ginter, Gulde, Gunter; Doan, Eggestein, Hofler, Grifo; Sallai, Holer

West Ham United possible starting lineup:
Fabianski; Coufal, Mavropanos, Zouma, Emerson; Soucek, Alvarez; Kudus, Ward-Prowse, Paqueta; Bowen


We say: Freiburg 2-3 West Ham United

West Ham rediscovering their knack for scoring spells trouble for a Freiburg side who cannot bolt the back door shut at home, but Streich's men still pose quite the threat in the final third themselves, giving rise to an action-packed first leg.

Whether the hosts have learned their lessons from their group-stage losses to the Irons remains to be seen, but while Moyes's men still look rather frail at the back, an almost complete contingent of attacking options can fight fire with fire to take a first-leg lead back to London.


For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.


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