The second of the European Cup finals takes place on Wednesday and sees another Italian team, Fiorentina, taking on English Premier League side West Ham. This is only the second year that this competition is running, with AS Roma winning the inaugural edition last year, getting the better of Feyenoord.
UEFA had long been considering reintroducing a third-tier competition to European Football and it got going in the 2021/2022 season. All teams must qualify, either via the Europa Conference League qualifiers or the Europa League playoffs. The winners of this competition will be rewarded with a place in the Europa League next season, a prize worth fighting for. Fiorentina finished eighth in Serie A and West Ham concluded their season in fourteenth in the Premier League, so both would miss out on European action next season.
This season’s finale will be played in Prague, in the Eden Arena. This stadium is the home of Sparta Prague and is a compact arena with a capacity of just under 20,00 supporters. Both teams will surely take many more fans than can be accommodated in the stadium so one can expect a lively atmosphere in the city centre.
In the build up to this game, West Ham will be more rested, having 10 days rest to recuperate and prepare tactically, something not afforded to the teams involved in last week’s Europa League final. West Ham have had a relatively poor season, especially considering that last season they qualified for Europe via their league position.
This year they ended in fourteenth place but spent much of the season flirting with relegation. Manager David Moyes has admitted that their European run probably saved his job, but some will think that, no matter the outcome of the final, he will be dismissed afterwards.
The London club ended the season with two wins from their last five matches, but it is hard to judge their form as once they were safe from the drop, their focus inevitably shifted. Fiorentina had a stronger end to their season, winning three of the last five including a win on the last day of the season against Sassuolo and they have five wins from the last ten in all competitions.
Fiorentina’s route to the final saw them just manage to sneak past Basel in the semi-finals, winning 4-3 on aggregate thanks to a very very late winner from Antonin Barak in extra time. Prior to that they were relatively comfortable winners over Lech Poznan and had an easy win over Turkish side Sivasspor in the round prior to that.
West Ham got the better of Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the semi-finals, a match that ended in controversy with West Ham supporters and family members attacked in the stadium. The Londoners also had a straightforward win over Gent in the previous round and a 6-0 aggregate win over AEK Larnaca in the one prior to that.
This is Fiorentina’s first European final in 33 years and they are looking for their first European silverware since 1961. Arguably the pressure is slightly higher on the Italian team as they aim to return some silverware. They are certainly able to score, having more attempts on goal than any other in the competition this season and have scored 36 more than any other team.
West Ham are second in the list of goals scored with 27, so it would be fair to assume an entertaining final. This is the first European final for West Ham in 40 years and they will be looking to cap an excellent European campaign by claiming the prize. They are unbeaten and have won all games barring one. Winning this competition would be a very satisfying end to a rewarding European adventure that has been a welcome distraction from a poor European season.
Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Italiano has enjoyed his first season in Europe and will be hoping to go one better than fellow Italians AS Roma last week. West Ham’s David Moyes has slightly more European experience, having guided Manchester United in the Champions League as well as West Ham in the Europa League last season but has never won a major trophy so success in this match would be a crowning moment for the 60 year old Scot.
In terms of predictions, there is very little to choose between these two teams with Fiorentina and West Ham both given a 38% chance of winning the match. Historically, there isn’t much to go on as this is only the second year this competition is being played and last year it ended 1-0. That being said, both these teams have good goalscoring records and neither are the most solid at the back.
Under 2.5 is still favoured though, given a 58% chance. The fact that Fiorentina had a better league season in Serie A might tempt people to back them but West Ham have two Czech players in their ranks, Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal, who are more than familiar with the Eden Arena as both played with Slavia Praha before joining West Ham. Overall, not much to choose between the two and hopefully we will be in for an entertaining match.