West Ham must overturn a one-goal deficit to advance to the Europa League quarter-finals tonight as they host Sevilla in what will surely be a thrilling encounter.
However, David Moyes’ side must do without key man Jarrod Bowen, who has been ruled out until after the upcoming international break with a bruised heel.
The Englishman’s injury could present Ukrainian winger Andriy Yarmolenko an opportunity to make his first start for the club since their FA Cup Fourth round victory away against Kidderminster Harriers back at the beginning of February.
At the weekend, the 32-year-old was “beautiful” in every sense of the word, with his goal and celebration being described as a “magical” moment by goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, to help the Hammers to an important victory over Aston Villa, with the East London club still in the race for the top four, despite losing ground in recent weeks.
Having earned a 7.3 match rating for his appearance off the bench in that game, the forward will be hungrier than ever to succeed with the Russian invasion of his home country ongoing in the background.
Assistant Coach Stuart Pearce admitted it was an emotional moment to see him score, telling talkSPORT: “He’s been in to train most of the time, obviously with everything that’s going on, he was fortunate enough to get his wife and children out of Ukraine after the war had started.
“It’s been really, really tough for him, and an incredibly emotional day yesterday, I’ve got to say. The scene was almost set for Yarma and the feeling and the support that everyone in this country has for Ukraine.
“We came in afterwards [into the dressing room] and there was standing applause when he scored his goal.
“He was in tears and I’ve got to say there was a tear in my eye as well for everything that it meant.”
Just like Bowen, Yarmolenko is a left-footed inside forward who loves to cut in from the right wing and have a shot, but equally can pop up in the centre-forward position throughout the game – which will benefit West Ham greatly particularly due to striker Michail Antonio’s potential absence.
The former Dynamo Kyiv star arrived in East London back in 2018 for £17.5m, but due to a number of injury problems, he has been restricted to just 76 appearances in all competitions, scoring 12 goals and setting up a further seven.