Leeds’ bemused Allardyce fervently wishes West Ham’s gaze is fixed upon the continental finale in English!
On Sunday, Sam Allardyce hopes that his struggling Leeds side will triumph over West Ham, who have made it to the Europa Conference League final. The 68-year-old veteran manager, who is renowned for his ability to turn teams’ fortunes around, desperately needs three points this weekend to save Leeds from relegation. A win against West Ham, who have struggled in the Premier League this season, could keep Leeds’s hopes alive of retaining their Premier League status for a second successive season on the final day.
Leeds are currently third from bottom and in a four-team dogfight battling to avoid being one of the two teams who will join already relegated Southampton in the Championship next term. Allardyce’s side is a point adrift of Everton and three shy of Nottingham Forest with two matches remaining.
Leicester, who currently reside second from bottom, are four points off safety. Leeds face a Hammers side, whom Allardyce has managed previously, and who are on a high after beating Dutch team AZ Alkmaar on Thursday to reach their first major final since 1976.
At the pre-match press conference on Friday, Allardyce was clear that he hopes Leeds emerge victorious. “Winning, there’s no doubt,” said Allardyce. “Now they’ve got a final to think about. They’ll go out and play and try their best, but subconsciously, they won’t want to get injured. One would have a worry about missing a final, so they may be a little more tentative, who knows?”
Allardyce has tightened up Leeds’s leaky defence in the two games he has been in charge of, a narrow 2-1 loss to Manchester City and a 2-2 draw with a high-flying Newcastle United. In April, Leeds conceded 23 goals, which effectively cost his predecessor Javi Gracia his job, setting a Premier League record for a single month.
However, Allardyce is unsure how he should set up his defence against the Hammers because Moyes could select a very different team to the one that played on Thursday. “We can normally guess the team that is going to be picked, but it is very difficult to look at this one,” he said. “(David Moyes) made nine changes when they played Brentford last week, and of course our preparation is to try to predict a team, work out how West Ham play, and do a little bit of practice against that, both offensively and defensively.”
Allardyce is happy for Moyes, who has enjoyed happier times with West Ham after his disastrous spell as Alex Ferguson’s successor at Manchester United. “I’m pleased for him (reaching a European final), I’ve known him for many years,” said Allardyce. “Hopefully when we are having a drink afterwards, it is us who have the three points, not him.”