West Ham United return to Europa League group stage action later this evening as they host Austrian outfit Rapid Wien at the London Stadium.
David Moyes and his side will be buoyed by their last-gasp victory over Leeds United on Sunday afternoon after their fine form in 2021 continued.
The Irons kickstarted their quest for European glory with a bang two weeks ago, defeating Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb 2-0 in their own back yard and one of the standout performers from that game must start in east London tonight.
Issa Diop has often struggled for consistency since arriving in a then club-record £22m deal from Toulouse in June 2018.
But his recent performances, whenever given a chance to start, have been rather impressive.
Once described a “monster” by former Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, the 24-year-old centre-back has been restricted to only 15 league starts since the start of the 2020/21 campaign, as per Transfermarkt.
In Croatia, the French colossus recorded a squad-high three interceptions, constantly putting a stop to the opposition’s attack. They weren’t taken lightly considering the same players who knocked Spurs out of the Europa League last season.
Diop then followed up this display with another stunning outing, this time against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup.
Irons assistant manager Stuart Pearce waxed lyrical about him after the game (via The Athletic):
“But I thought Diop was absolutely magnificent. The longer the game went on the more of a colossus he looked at the back and he’s still in relative terms, a very young man for a central defender so we’re absolutely delighted to have Issa at this club.”
Kurt Zouma’s arrival at the club this summer has seen the fellow countryman slip down the pecking order but with both Angelo Ogbonna and Craig Dawson getting older and older into their 30s, he will be needed in the future.
He will also be called upon should either of the aforementioned trio pick up any injuries across the current campaign, so handing him further game time in an encounter like this could be super beneficial. It could be a game-changer for the rest of the season.
The £16.2m-rated beast must start at the London Stadium tonight.