West Ham United will play KAA Gent in a Europa League Conference quarter-final this evening in an attempt to salvage a tumultuous and troubled campaign.
Despite the Hammers languishing in 14th place in the Premier League and only three points above the relegation zone, they have been in imperious European form and are yet to lose in this competition.
David Moyes will be hoping that his side can emulate the form that took them to the Europa League semi-finals last season but will obviously hope his side can go one step further.
If the Scotsman wants to ensure a safe passage and a headstart in this encounter, then he should consider unleashing the returning Lucas Paqueta, who is reportedly “fit to feature” after overcoming a minor injury that kept him out the last game.
The £150k-per-week maestro could easily be the creative spark to ignite this tie and has the potential to be the difference-maker.
Should Paqueta start against KAA Gent?
It was the magnificent form that the Brazilian displayed at Lyon which tempted the Irons to splash a club-record £53m on the Paqueta. In France, the 25-year-old registered 34 goal contributions in 80 appearances in all competitions.
Moreover, thanks to this incredible form, the playmaker was named Ligue 1’s best foreign player for the 2021/22 season, after recording nine goals and six assists – a tremendously prolific season that catapulted the player into international stardom and was therefore a huge statement signing for the Hammers.
Since his move to England, he has been unable to replicate these kinds of numbers, with only five goal contributions this season, however, he has still performed admirably and currently has the second-highest rating (6.85) of any West Ham player in the league.
In 28 games in all competitions this season, the former AC Milan player has created 21 chances, despite not being at his effervescent best, as per BBC Sport.
The midfielder has previously been lauded as “extraordinary” by his former boss Peter Bosz, and finished a stunning team goal for Brazil at the World Cup against South Korea with a sumptuous placed effort.
The £46m-rated dynamo currently ranks in the top 15% in Europe’s top five leagues among his positional peers for shot-creating actions per 90 and the top 9% for touches in the attacking penalty area per 90 to show he is a busy and untameable presence when fully fit.
The skills and quality he has displayed in the past will be crucial to a West Ham side that, although secured victory against Fulham, was heavily dominated in attacking output and was perhaps fortunate to escape with three points.