West Ham United can seal their place in the Europa Conference League last 16 and earn a five-month break in the next week.
The Hammers head to Belgium to face Anderlecht in their third group game of this season’s European campaign on Thursday evening.
It has been a perfect start so far for West Ham with wins over FCSB and Silkeborg.
Now David Moyes and his side face a double-header against Anderlecht in the next seven days that can have a huge impact on the shape of West Ham’s season.
Anderlecht threaten to be West Ham’s toughest opponents in the competition so far this season, on paper at least.
But West Ham will be confident having secured a morale-boosting 2-0 win over Wolves at the weekend while the Belgians lost their last game 1-0 to Charleroi.
There is an absolutely huge carrot for the Hammers and Moyes ahead of the Anderlecht double header in the space of seven days.
Because West Ham can seal their place in the Europa Conference League last 16 and earn a five-month break in the next week.
Anderlecht, with four points, sit second in Group B behind West Ham.
In six-game European groups it usually requires 11 or 12 points to win the group. In the Conference League – like the Europa League last season – group winners advance straight to the last 16 while those finishing second face a play-off against teams dropping out of the Europa.
If West Ham can do the double over Anderlecht in this next week it will seal the group win with two games to spare.
And that will not only mean a place in the last 16, but also effectively secures a crucial five-month break from the competition.
Moyes has regularly highlighted how difficult it is for his side to play Thursday-Sunday and juggle his priorities.
So if West Ham can get the job done in the next seven days Moyes can effectively play a reserve and youth side in the remaining two group matches, keeping his key first team stars fresh for the jam-packed Premier League schedule ahead of the winter World Cup.
West Ham would have a break until the last 16 clashes, which take place over two legs on the 9th and 16th of March.
Whereas finishing second would add another two games to the calendar with the play-off against a Europa side a month earlier on February 16th and 23rd.
Moyes and his players will be well aware of that so West Ham minds will be fully focused to repeat what they did last season and get the job done by the time the final whistle goes against Anderlecht at the London Stadium next Thursday night.
West Ham will also then have plenty of time to prepare after the World Cup to really attack the last 16 in the hope of winning a first major trophy for over 40 years.