What to look out for in the UEFA Europa Conference League quarter-final first legs
Thursday, April 13, 2023
West Ham will look to take comfort in recent and distant past successes while Lech and Basel may have the inside track on Fiorentina and Nice respectively.
Article top media content
West Ham, Fiorentina, AZ Alkmaar and Nice were impressive winners in the round of 16 second legs but all now face stern tests away from home in their UEFA Europa Conference League quarter-final first legs.
In this piece, presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the opening last-eight matches.
Quarter-final first legs: 13 April
Gent vs West Ham (18:45 CET)
Lech vs Fiorentina (21:00 CET)
Anderlecht vs AZ (21:00 CET)
Basel vs Nice (21:00 CET)
What to look out for
Can West Ham repeat history?
The form team in the competition with ten consecutive victories (including qualifying), West Ham also appear to have a positive omen on their side after being drawn against Gent in the last eight. The Hammers' first ever match in UEFA competition was against the Belgium side – then known as La Gantoise – in the first round of the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1964 and that maiden campaign ended with their sole European trophy as they beat 1860 München in the final at Wembley stadium.
"This is what we want for the club: we want to bring a trophy back and that's always been the aim since the start of the season," said forward Jarrod Bowen. "We had that ambition last season as well. We want to go all the way. We know it's not going to be easy and there are some top teams still left in the competition but we're in a quarter-final now, so we're not far away."
Sternest test yet for mean Lech defence
Lech have shown a propensity to step up against highly-rated opposition this season and they will need to stand tall again when they take on Fiorentina in the last eight. The 3-0 win against Villarreal, which secured their progress from Group C, was the first of five consecutive clean sheets for the improving Polish side and they may have a key weapon in ensuring their next opponents have an equally tricky task breaking them down.
Bartosz Salamon spent 14 years in Italy, playing in the top flight for the likes of Cagliari, SPAL and Frosinone, before joining Lech in 2021. "It's a good draw," the defender said. "At this stage, you just have to come out with as much enthusiasm as possible and enjoy where you are. It will be a nice journey for me – there are some guys at Fiorentina who I've played with – so it will be an interesting game. I played in Serie A against this team, so I know what to expect. We can get a good result."
Old boys a threat to resurgent Nice
Basel were knocked out by Marseille, 4-2 on aggregate, in the round of 16 of this competition last season and they will be eager to avoid back-to-back eliminations at the hands of French opponents when they face improving Nice – Les Aiglons' 3-1 win against Sheriff in the last-16 second leg made it 12 games without defeat in all competitions – in the last eight this time around.
Heiko Vogel's side will have some valuable intelligence ahead of the opener in Switzerland courtesy of two ex-Nice players in their ranks, defender Andy Pelmard and midfielder Dan Ndoye. Both moved to Basel in autumn 2021 – and played in those two matches against Marseille – but any inside information on their former club will be vital given that Nice's unbeaten run started when Didier Digard took over from Lucien Favre in January.
Where is the 2023 UEFA Europa Conference League final being played?
The Eden Arena in Prague, Czechia, has been selected to host this season's Europa Conference League final on 7 June 2023.
The 2013 UEFA Super Cup took place at the Eden Arena, with Bayern defeating Chelsea 5-4 on penalties following a 2-2 draw over 120 minutes, and a showpiece game also went the distance two years later in the 2015 Under-21 EURO final, Sweden seeing off Portugal 4-3 on spot kicks.