Leicester’s defeat to Roma last night all but guarantees West Ham a Europa Conference League spot but there’s a catch.
European football is looking all but guaranteed for West Ham again next season despite the club’s devastating exit in the Europa League semi-final last night.
The Hammers lost 3-1 on aggregate to Eintracht Frankfurt but the tie was effectively decided by West Ham’s profligate finishing and Aaron Cresswell’s 18th minute sending off in the second leg.
West Ham have fully embraced and loved every minute of the Europa League journey this season.
And as a ‘gutted’ Declan Rice stated after the game, he and his teammates ‘want more’ European football.
So too do West Ham’s fans.
And they look more than likely to get it too.
As highlighted by Hammers News earlier this week, West Ham are very much now odds on to seal seventh spot.
That will be rewarded with a Europa Conference League spot as it is passed on to the Premier League placings after Liverpool – who will be in the Champions League – won the Carabao Cup.
The only potential stumbling block for the Hammers securing back-to-back European qualification was Leicester winning the Conference League.
That would have been rewarded with automatic Europa League qualification next season.
And – given the Foxes will finish outside the Premier League European places – would have meant all seven of England’s UEFA competition slots being filled, thus taking away the Conference League spot.
Now Leicester’s defeat in the Conference League semi-final against Roma all but guarantees West Ham a Europa Conference League spot, but there’s a catch.
Of course anything can happen in football.
But Wolves’s 3-0 defeat to Brighton last time out and ridiculously difficult run in, should see the Hammers seal seventh.
West Ham are three points ahead of Wolves with three and four games to go respectively. But it is effectively four points as the Hammers have a better goal difference.
West Ham have already relegated Norwich this weekend before games against Man City and Brighton.
Wolves meanwhile have away games against Chelsea, next, and Liverpool on the last day sandwiching a game against Man City.
Both West Ham and Wolves play already relegated Norwich – which you would expect to be a banker for both.
On form, Wolves’s goal difference is only going to get worse with those fixtures. So Bruno Lage’s side would have to pick up at least four points from those games and hope West Ham lose their remaining three to leapfrog Moyes’s side for the Conference League spot.
But as I say, there’s a catch.
West Ham would have to play a two-legged qualifier just a couple of weeks into the new season to make the Conference League group stage proper.
The play-off round features 10 teams with the draw taking place on August 1st and the first and second legs played on August 18th and 25th.
The Conference League may be designed predominantly to give some minnows from vastly inferior leagues a taste of European football. But there will be some big hitters in there from the top leagues too.
You only have to look at the semi-finals for this season’s inaugural competition to see that with Leicester playing Roma and Feyenoord v Marseille.
Some fans might not like the idea of being in the “new InterToto” but as a fallback option for West Ham, Conference League football would still be an achievement given the fiercely competitive nature of the Premier League.
It is also worth mentioning that should West Ham end up in the Conference League – as now looks highly likely – winning it guarantees Europa League qualification.