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West Ham on Cusp of European Glory

David Moyes looks to inscribe his name into West Ham folklore with continental success within arm's reach.

West Ham United have the chance to cap off a topsy-turvy season with silverware and a ticket to the UEFA Europa League next term. Standing between them and victory in the Europa Conference League are Fiorentina.

Following an awful start to the 2022/23 domestic season, in which they won a single one of their opening seven games in the Premier League, the Hammers have the chance to rewrite club history on Wednesday.

Having guided West Ham to a first European final for almost half a century, David Moyes has suggested a positive outcome for his team in the Conference League would be his greatest achievement in football management to date.

Moreover, on a personal level, trophy success for the Scotsman would certainly buy him more time in the hot seat at London Stadium.

It is fair to say West Ham greatly underachieved in the Premier League, picking up just 40 points and surviving relegation by six, and there is no doubting Moyes was feeling the pressure at several points during this long and arduous season.

West Ham narrowly avoided a relegation dogfight.

When the domestic season went on pause in November for the FIFA World Cup, the Irons were one point off the bottom three places. As recently as April were they still flirting with the prospect of relegation, having entered the penultimate month of the campaign with below one point per game on average.

It wasn't until a week before the end of the season that West Ham secured their safety but they ultimately did enough to retain their Premier League status for at least another year. The east London side picked up nine points from its final seven league games to remain in the English top flight for a 12th successive season.

A comeback draw at home to Arsenal (16 April) injected life into a disappointing season, steering the Hammers clear of the drop zone and propelling them to a first European final since 1976. Moyes' side overturned a two-goal deficit to earn a point and land a major blow on the title-hopeful Gunners.

Bukayo Saka's missed penalty proved costly. (Photo: Danehouse/Getty Images)

The greatest concern for West Ham has been a shortage of goals in the league. Jarrod Bowen and Saïd Benrahma ended the term with six goals apiece; Michail Antonio five and Lucas Paqueta four. Together the quartet accounted for half of the team's 42 goals throughout their 38-game league campaign.

Antonio has been the team's most frequent scorer with 14 goals in 47 appearances (all competitions) while Bowen netted only 12 times in 53 outings.

Antonio has struck six times in the Europa Conference League and the Jamaica international is one shy of the competition's top scorer – his opposite number at Fiorentina, Arthur Cabral.

West Ham scored just 16 goals halfway into the league season, and extra quality in front of goal was (and is still) desperately needed. The club sanctioned the £15million signing of Danny Ings from Aston Villa in January although he has added just three goals in 22 outings.

Bowen hasn't been at his goalscoring best this term. (Photo: Visionhaus via Getty Images)

With the task of capturing a first continental prize since 1965, the final in Prague could prove a swansong for West Ham skipper Declan Rice.

Rice, 24, is entering the final year of his contract and now could be the ideal time for him to take the next step towards competing at the very top level.

He has been the Hammers' midfield general for five years now, serving as the team's cornerstone under Moyes. Rice could become the first West Ham captain to lead his team to a European trophy since Bobby Moore lifted the Cup Winners' Cup in 1965.

Rice is the face of modern-day West Ham. (Photo: Visionhaus/Getty Images)

The 41-cap England international is key to retrieving possession and carry upfield to get the ball rolling for an offensive. His 63 interceptions were a league-high this past season and he would flourish in a more productive side.

Having joined the Irons at 14 years-old, Rice is now linked with a move away from his boyhood club with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Bayern Munich circling for his signature.

West Ham chairman David Sullivan will certainly command a handsome fee for his club's captain and most important component, with any deal likely to be worth north of £80million and possibly even a nine-figure sum.

On their path to the final, West Ham were the only team in the competition to claim a maximum 18 points from the group stage.

Moyes' charges are unbeaten in Europe this term, taking 11 wins from 12 games, and they have scored 27 goals while conceding just seven times.

The Irons swept aside Cypriot outfit AEK Larnaca, 6-0 on aggregate, in the last-16 before they overcame Gent over two legs (5-2) courtesy of a 4-1 win at London Stadium.

They went on to beat AZ Alkmaar home and away to book their spot in the final at Fortuna Arena.

The Hammers have scored 27 goals in the competition – only their fellow finalists Fiorentina (36) have found the back of the net more times, though by some margin.

12 months ago West Ham were dumped out of the Europa League semifinals by eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt, but now they are 90 minutes away from a return to Europe's secondary club competition.

(Cover Image: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

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