West Ham United begin their bid to earn a second successive season in the main stages of European football with the first leg of their Europa Conference League playoff tie against Viborg FF.
While the Hammers are playing their first continental fixture of the season, Viborg have already come through two rounds in this competition.
When West Ham lost to Brighton & Hove Albion on the final day of the 2021-22 Premier League, David Moyes was left fuming that his side had missed out on a second successive year in the Europa League.
However, on the back of reaching the semi-finals in that competition last season, Moyes and the East London outfit are motivated to become the second winners of the Europa Conference League.
West Ham must first hit back from successive defeats to Manchester City and Nottingham Forest on the domestic scene, but they can count themselves unfortunate not to prevail in the latter on Sunday.
Moyes’s side did everything but score at the City Ground, and the Scot will feel that goals are just around the corner, helped by the extra competition for places.
Although West Ham are the clear favourites to prevail from this tie, they do not have fond memories of fixtures in qualifying rounds after suffering back-to-back defeats to Astra Giurgiu in 2015-16 and 2016-17 respectively.
Despite their tag as underdogs, Viborg can claim to be heading into this tie with momentum having already progressed through two ties.
Suduva and B36 Torshavn have been brushed aside with the only goal that Viborg have conceded coming when 4-0 ahead on aggregate in the latter of those ties.
However, Jacob Friis has already witnessed his team lose twice in their opening five fixtures in the Danish Superliga, leaving them in fifth position in the table.
West Ham fans may be familiar with the names of Jan Zamburek and Jay-Roy Grot, players who have previously had spells at Leeds United and Brentford respectively.
While Moyes will inevitably make changes to his West Ham XI, some of the club’s key men are likely to retain their spots in the side.
Gianluca Scamacca could be handed his first start for the club, while Manuel Lanzini is an obvious alternative in a creative area.
Flynn Downes is an option in midfield, second-choice goalkeeper Alphonse Areola should start, but Maxwel Cornet may have to make do with another outing off the substitutes’ bench.
Having quickly established a 2-0 lead over Silkeborg at the weekend, Friis took the opportunity to rest a number of his players after the hour mark.
That may lead to an unchanged Viborg starting lineup, although that will depend on whether Friis opts to deploy a more defensively-minded formation.
Grot may retain his spot down the middle of the attack after scoring his first goal of the season at the weekend.
West Ham United possible starting lineup:
Areola; Coufal, Zouma, Johnson, Cresswell; Downes, Rice, Lanzini; Bowen, Scamacca, Benrahma
Viborg FF possible starting lineup:
Lund; Anyembe, Zaletel, Burgy, Sorensen; Bonde, Gronning, Leemans; Said, Grot, Lonwijk