Lyon vs West Ham United, Europa League live: score and latest updates

B.and Sam Dean

David Moyes, when speaking about the January transfer window earlier this year, made it clear that it was not a lack of trying that prevented West Ham United from making any new signings. “We were really ambitious,” he said in the hours following the window’s closure. “We probably made three record transfer bids.”

West Ham’s problem was not cash, of which they have plenty. Nor was it an issue with their talent identification. Leeds United’s Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips were targeted with big-money approaches, as was Benfica striker Darwin Nunez. All three are widely accepted to be among the most exciting players in the European game.

No, West Ham’s problem was instead one of status. They were only interested in buying players who would elevate the club to a higher level, but such players can remain cautious about committing to a club like West Ham, especially in the case of Raphinha and Nunez, who have also caught the eye of established Champions League sides.

“It has been tougher because we are looking at a much different level of player now and trying to attract some of the top players throughout Europe,” Moyes said in that post-window interview, acknowledging the challenge of recruiting those players who are wanted by Europe’s biggest clubs.

In part, the issue is reputational. West Ham can tell these prospective players that they are ready to compete with European heavyweights and battle towards the top of the Premier League table, and they can point to the power of their stadium, which will hold 62,500 fans next season. But they also need to be showing they are ready to make the next step if they are to truly convince these stars to jump on board.

All of which means that matches like Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final against Lyon, under the lights in France, carry wider significance for the club. This tie is about far more than simply winning or losing their first European quarter-final in 41 years — it is also about prestige, profile and selling themselves to the wider footballing community.

“For West Ham it is a great time,” said Moyes in Lyon on Wednesday. “I remember last year, in the run-in, wondering if we can get in the Europa League. The thought of us being in Europe was fantastic. It is a great occasion and I don’t want it to go. I want it to keep going.”

The upcoming summer window will provide an indication of how much this Europa League journey, which has been genuinely thrilling for fans and neutrals alike, has boosted West Ham’s standing. Will Nunez, for example, be more attainable now? What is clear is that they are now on the map as a continental force, having not just beaten Seville but also largely outplayed them in the previous round.

If West Ham are to overcome Lyon, who could only draw 1-1 in London despite Aaron Cresswell’s red card, then a possible semi-final with Barcelona awaits for Moyes and his players. That truly would be a global occasion, and the ultimate opportunity for the club to tell the world that it is serious about competing at this level.

The task is a tough one, though, and it has been made more difficult by an injury to key defender Kurt Zouma. With Cresswell and Zouma both missing, West Ham’s defense will be far less formidable — on paper at least — than it was last week. Moyes said it was an option for him to play Declan Rice in defence, instead of in midfield, but that could rip much of the energy from the side.

“Declan has played there before and it would give us a different dimension,” said Moyes. “But he is a big miss if we take him out of the middle of the pitch.”

There will be no surprises in attack, at least, where Michail Antonio will be looking to end an uncharacteristic goal drought. The striker is famous for his unusual goal celebrations and he claimed to have a spectacular one planned here. “You will see it tomorrow,” he said. The world is waiting and watching, and that can only be good news for a club of West Ham’s increasingly lofty ambitions.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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