Vladimír Coufal eyes another goal and win in Genk and a UEFA Europa League record for West Ham United
Vladimír Coufal would love history to repeat itself in Belgium on Thursday evening.
For the last time West Ham United’s Czech international right-back played at KRC Genk in the UEFA Europa League, in February 2019, he scored in a 4-1 victory that took his side, Slavia Prague, through to the round of 16.
A repeat of that result, ideally with Coufal scoring his first goal for the Club in the process, would all but confirm the Hammers as Group H winners and secure their direct passage into the knockout stages.
At the same time, the defender would also love for West Ham to become the first English club to win all six Europa League group-stage matches without conceding a single goal. So far, the Irons have won three out of three, scoring seven without reply.
We would like to make a new record by not conceding a goal in the group and also getting 18 points, so those would be a nice bonus
“It would be simply perfect [to score and win at Genk again] because I remember this game for Slavia,” he recalled, speaking in his pre-match press conference.
“We won 4-1 and after we went through to the next round, so we could do similar success with West Ham because if we win the game we win the group, so it’s similar.
“Also I’m waiting too long for my first goal for West Ham in my opinion, so I have to shoot to the goal and I have to score, it’s that simple.
“I have to say we were watching the draw and this group, I expected like a close group. I think our opponents played very well but, you know, it’s how I said, we want to win this group and we’re going to do everything for it.
“It’s a bonus for us and the fans and because West Ham didn’t play in the European competition for a long time and we would also like to make a new record by not conceding a goal in the group and also getting 18 points, so those would be a nice bonus.”
A win for West Ham at the Cegeka Arena and a draw between Dinamo Zagreb and Rapid Vienna in Croatia on Thursday evening would confirm the Irons as group winners and spare them a two-legged play-off round tie with a team dropping out of UEFA Champions League next February.
“Of course, it’s very important also for us because our schedule is like unbelievable now, especially next month, so we can have one round less if we win the group and that’s a bonus for us, so we want to get this bonus.”
Coufal says he and his teammates would also love to complete a Group H double over the Belgian Cup winners to help David Moyes celebrate his 1,000th senior match as a manager.
“One thousand games is like a huge a success for him, I’d say, and for sure we would like to win and give him a good performance from us like a birthday gift!” he smiled. “We will do everything for him to win.
And a sixth consecutive win in all competitions and European football after Christmas would also be a fitting reward for the Claret and Blue Army, according to the popular full-back, who finished as runner-up in the Hammer of the Year voting last season.
“All West Ham fans appreciate our performances and our results now, so we just can promise we’re going to do everything to carry on these results and deliver this quality of football to our fans and all West Ham supporter.
“For West Ham, I hope we can carry on with these performances and results as it’s very important to us and now I think it’s a very good age to be a West Ham.”
Coufal is expected to start against Genk after missing three games through injury and featuring as a substitute in the Carabao Cup fourth-round penalty shootout win over Manchester City and Sunday’s 4-1 Premier League victory at Aston Villa.
In his absence, Academy graduate Ben Johnson has caught the eye, both with his defensive prowess and a fine goal at Villa Park, and the 29-year-old knows his young teammate will provide strong competition for the right-back berth going forward.
“Of course, Ben is a young lad from our Academy and he did well while I was injured,” he observed. “He played really well. I need to praise him, because he scored a goal and did very well in the defence, so that’s very, very good.
“Also, when you want to have a very successful team, you need to double up in your position and it’s good for you because when you are alone in your position, you can lose your motivation, so he pushed me and I’m going to do everything for the team performances, like always.”