Pub Talk: ‘It would be better to be at home for the second leg but this side will dig deep’

The Blowing Bubbles team settle down to put the world to rights

After our first leg defeat away in Sevilla, did you still have faith that we would still progress into the next round?

Meirion Williams: I have to be honest I thought the second leg would end in a 0-0 draw. I had visions of our game against Steaua Bucharest back in 1999 when we just couldn’t score. In fact we would still be there now and still not scored. But on the night Sevilla looked great defensively but seemed to provide nothing up front. As for the atmosphere at the London Stadium, it was simply fantastic. I had missed the window for my usual seat so I stood in a different row. It was a great night, maybe not one as good as other games but probably the best one at our rented stadium.

David Meagher: I think we were unlucky not to score in Seville but we put that behind us and set down a big marker in the home leg with a great performance. I think we all know this team has a big heart, so a positive result was never really in doubt for me. We have had plenty of big games and great results at the new stadium but this one took us to another level. As a music lover, I enjoy seeing bands in smaller, more intimate venues, but there’s also a place for the festival-like atmosphere we can create at our big new home.

Lucy Farrell: After the first leg, I honestly didn’t think we’d actually do it. The 1-0 defeat gave us a really good opportunity at home, but I thought we would give it a really good go, maybe level it up and lose it in extra time. We would all be very proud of what we’d achieved and say “better luck next time”. The lack of expectation made the actual result at home even better!

Lyon are our next opponents and then either Barcelona or Frankfurt – Were you happy with this draw?

MW: I worry about the Lyon game, mainly because many will think it’s a formality and the big one will be the semi-final. Lyon is a good draw although I would have preferred Braga as it’s a sunnier climb. I think it would have been better to have the home game second but beggars can’t be choosers. We need to get at least a two goal lead to ease the pressure of that second leg. As for the semi final, what a draw that is. I was hoping that if we were going to meet Barcelona it would be in one of the earlier rounds and not the final where we would have missed a trip to the Nou Camp. But first we need to get past Lyon and that’s not an easy game. 

DM: I agree that it would be better to be at home for the second leg but as we know, this side will dig deep wherever you take them on. Lyon will be tricky and try to prepare well but we are a hard team to deal with – our tactics are pretty straightforward but the fact that we are hard to score against and attack with speed or through set piece muscle is not easy to overcome. We are also pretty patient under Moyes.

LF: Yes, I’m with you both there, the main disappointment was not being drawn away first. That makes any tie trickier. Lyon is a decent draw for us, and if we can beat the club known for their Europa League superiority, we can take anyone on. And of course, the potential semi-final draw is the one we all wanted! What an exciting prospect.

After the high from our win against Sevilla, we came crashing back down to earth with a 3-1 defeat away at Spurs – Do you feel we were unlucky not to come away with anything?

MW: It was a disappointment and not a great game to watch. Being in the fourth row almost behind the goal, I had a great view. We seemed jaded. I did care as I always do when we play Spurs and disappointingly they went above us as a result of that game. We didn’t look great and once Masuaku showed his lack of defensive prowess it was inevitable the result would go against us. 

DM: Spurs was a game too far for a tired team and we got no less than we deserved. We might have stolen a 2-2 which would have been delicious but 3-1 was probably a fair result. There will be other days to throttle our neighbours. Worryingly, we look increasingly likely to slip down to seventh and that loss may be very significant come season’s end. Oh for a bigger squad of players looking to impress.

LF: I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a weekend of a Spurs game thinking “I don’t really mind what happens”, such was the high of the Thursday night. Of course, I wanted to beat them, but I wasn’t as disappointed with the loss as normal. It’s a shame such a big game for league positions fell when it did, we were never going to be up for it. But I’m still left with a sour taste of Son being a cheating so and so, which will hopefully add fuel to the fire next time we meet. 

We’ve got a few winnable games coming up but do you think our focus will be on our European adventure and we could drop points?

MW: I have said it before that I think we will end up in eighth place or if we are lucky in seventh. I actually quite fancy a European Conference League appearance so that wouldn’t be so bad. For me the Europa League now takes precedence. That I believe is our only way into the Champions League.

DM: I agree with Meirion, if we want to step up to the Champions League then winning the Europa League is now the best route. I watched Barca thrash Real Madrid on the evening of our Spurs defeat and felt very deflated. They are rebuilding a very decent looking side, so if we get past Lyon and face them we will be up against it.

LF: I’m with you there – the Europa League would give the club a lift like no other. We could cope with seventh place in the league if it meant taking the European prize. We’ve still had a brilliant season, and with injuries starting to creep in, it would be understandable if the Premier League didn’t take priority. 

Do you think there will be a movie made about Andriy Yarmolenko’s return to the side as war continued to rage in his home country and scored in both our games against Villa and Sevilla?

MW: A film? I hope not! Aren’t there enough bad football based films out there already? As for Andriy’s performance, well you couldn’t write it could you. He is showing the type of form he showed when he first came to the club. I wrote two articles a few years ago praising the Ukrainian and felt I must have put a curse on him as after they were published, his form eluded him. He now offers us a better option upfront than Antonio.

DM: I am not usually one for mixing politics and sport but this is an exception. I think all football fans were touched by his two recent goals. We have probably underutilised him but he has been unlucky with injuries and our success which is based on a game plan that doesn’t suit his skillset. That said, football is a big stage and he did not miss his cue to join our legends gallery with those surreal moments of joy mixed with sadness. He is a top professional.

LF: We’ve all followed the personal struggles that Andriy has had off the field, and it’s an absolute credit to him that he’s been able to return to football and play such an amazing part in West Ham history. His relationship with his teammates who have all come together to support him seems to have really helped him out, and he’s proving a point on the field; he will not be defeated. It could certainly inspire a film script. 

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