Three reasons to watch West Ham vs AEK Larnaca - live on BT Sport!

The Irons won the first leg of their Europa Conference League last-16 tie 2-0 in Cyprus thanks to a Michail Antonio double and will be hoping to get the job done at the London Stadium on Thursday night.

By Alex Bowmer Published: 16 March 2023 - 5.04pm

West Ham took a significant 2-0 lead back from Cyprus last Thursday as two Michail Antonio goals proved the difference against AEK Larnaca. 

Now, David Moyes' men will look to seal progress to the quarter-finals of the Europa Conference League with another morale-boosting victory during what has been a very difficult season domestically. 

Here are three reasons to watch the second leg of this last-16 tie, live on BT Sport 3 from the London Stadium, with coverage starting at 7.30pm. 

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Will Scamacca finally get a start?

There were high hopes for Gianluca Scamacca when he signed for West Ham from Sassuolo for a fee in excess of £30m. 

The young striker had netted 16 goals in Serie A during 2021/22, but he has found the going tough in England's top flight as a combination of poor form and injuries has seen him flit in and out of the starting XI.

Some Irons supporters have questioned the Italy international's workrate and his minutes have been more sporadic since the post-World Cup resumption, with the purchase of Danny Ings in January offering another attacking option to David Moyes.

Scamacca is now firmly third-choice when it comes to leading the line and didn't feature at all against Aston Villa even though Michail Antonio was out due to a calf issue, with Ings starting against his old club before being replaced by Maxwel Cornet late on. 

Gianluca Scamacca warming up during West Ham's game at home to Aston Villa
Gianluca Scamacca is struggling for minutes at West Ham and hasn't featured in the last four league games

Speaking about Scamacca after the game against Unai Emery's men, Moyes said: "We know that his physical data has got to be much better than it is.

"Gianluca has got to get himself back. No manager wants to put out a bad team, you want to put out the players who you think are going to win for you, so you are always looking to put your best team out.

"I think his application is there, we just want the output to be bigger and more. That’s one of the things we are looking for more [of].

"The general part of his play, his hold-up play, we like him for it, he's really, really good at it and we've not seen it as much in the work we've been doing."

With West Ham heavy favourites to win the tie, can Scamacca step up and demonstrate his quality in what is a relatively low-stakes game?

Experienced duo facing race to be fit

The calf problem that Michail Antonio sustained in the first leg means he is a doubt for the return fixture, having missed the Aston Villa game on Sunday.

Vladimir Coufal meanwhile came off with a heel issue at half-time against Nottingham Forest on 25 February and hasn't been available since, with Moyes seemingly indicating that the right-back was less likely than the forward to return against AEK Larnaca (although he didn't completely rule out either player). 

Speaking about the pair after the Villa game, Moyes said: "Vladimir Coufal has got plantar fascia. I don't know if he is going to be back in the week, but he is improving.

Vladimir Coufal crosses the ball against Newcastle last month
West Ham's most significant injury absence in recent weeks has undoubtedly been Vladimir Coufal after the right-back suffered a heel problem

"He's desperate to get out and show what he can do, but he's got a foot injury. I don't think he'll be back this week, Vlad. Maybe [he] could be back after the international break.

"Antonio got a kick in the calf and we're not quite sure [when he'll be back]. We tested him this [Sunday] morning and he wasn't quite right, so we didn't take the risk with it."

Lukasz Fabianski looks certain to be out until after the international break having suffered a fractured cheekbone and eye socket against Forest. 

The potential absence of Coufal is the biggest injury blow for the Hammers, given the struggles of Ben Johnson and Thilo Kehrer in deputising for the 30-year-old. 

Will next generation get the nod?

During the latter stages of the Europa Conference League group phase, David Moyes experimented by blooding several promising talents. 

The Scot started midfielder Conor Coventry in the wins over both Silkeborg and FCSB, while Ollie Scarles, then just 16, and 18-year-old Divin Mubama made their full debuts in the latter fixture.

Mubama played a huge part in the second goal that evening - although his diving header did take a decisive deflection off FCSB centre-back Joyskim Dawa - and the 18-year-old will be hoping for a return to the first-team squad along with Scarles on Thursday evening. 

Divin Mubama celebrates after playing a big part in West Ham's second goal at FCSB
Divin Mubama marked his West Ham debut at FCSB by helping the Hammers get their second goal after his header went in off a home defender

Fellow youngsters Freddie Potts, Keenan Appiah-Forson, Kamarai Simon-Swyer and Kaelan Casey came on in Romania, while teenagers Regan Clayton, Michael Forbes and Lewis Orford were all unused substitutes. 

If West Ham get a goal or two in the first half against AEK Larnaca, Moyes may be tempted to give some of them a chance to play in front of a home European crowd. Memories to savour.