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Europa Conference League: Matchday five preview

The eight Europa Conference League groups are taking shape with two games to go, with matchday number five throwing up campaign-determining clashes.

West Ham top Group B and look poised to take their place in the last 16 of the competition, while the situation for Nice is slightly more critical. The Ligue 1 side sit second in Group D behind Partizan Belgrade, though they welcome the Serbians to the south of France in this round of encounters.

As for Hearts, their European jaunt looks to be coming to an end unless an unlikely swing sees them sneak second place in Group A. Nevertheless, the chance to record a second win of the campaign presents itself with the visit of Rigas FS.

Hammers holding out for top spot

What:West Ham v Silkeborg IF
Where:London Stadium, London
When:20:00 Thursday 27th October 2022
How to watch:BT Sport 2
Odds:West Ham 2/5, Draw 4/1, Silkeborg IF 13/2

The Europa Conference League has been kind to West Ham so far this season; four wins from four have put David Moyes' men in pole position to advance and their progression will be sealed provided they avoid defeat at home to Silkeborg IF on Thursday night.

The Danish side are trailing in West Ham's wake, having recovered in part from the opening defeat against the Londoners to piece together six points, though they face a stern test from Anderlecht, keen to rival them for the runners-up play-off spot when they meet on matchday six.

On paper, nothing suggests that the London Stadium outfit will have any trouble in meting out another victory – and one that will save them playing two extra games next season.

Manchester United are up next in Premier League action this Sunday and therefore Moyes must find a balance between keeping key men fresh for the weekend and ensuring the job is done before the final group match.

And with an ideal scenario being a healthy lead at the interval, West Ham to be leading at half-time with more than 1.5 goals in the game is available at 11/4.

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Nice time for some home advantage

What:Nice v Partizan Belgrade
Where:Allianz Riviera, Nice, France
When:17:45 Thursday 27th October 2022
How to watch:BT Sport Digital
Odds:Nice 7/10, Draw 11/4, Partizan 4/1

While the Group D standings may currently induce panic among the Nice faithful, that could all change with a positive result at home to table-topping Partizan Belgrade.

A 1-1 draw saw the spoils shared when the pair met on matchday two in Serbia, meaning that whichever team comes out on top on the Cote d'Azur this Thursday will eliminate the other from the running for automatic progression.

Partizan are unbeaten, with eight points to their name and a three-point gap over Nice, while Cologne and Slovacko have four apiece.

Therefore, an away win for the Serbians would make them uncatchable and their opponents will be left to scrap it out for a play-off berth with the German and Czech contenders.

Nice have scored just one goal per game so far, while Partizan come into the clash on the back of two wins to nil. A third in succession can be backed at 7/1.

Hearts to avoid downbeat finish

What:Hearts v Rigas FS
Where:Tynecastle, Edinburgh
When:20:00 Thursday 27th October 2022
How to watch:BT Sport 3
Odds:Hearts 7/10, Draw 14/5, Rigas FS 4/1

And with the Latvians now headed for the Scottish capital, the time is nigh for Hearts to add another victory to their European record.

The Edinburgh club are third in Group A, four points adrift of La Viola and seven behind leaders Basaksehir, with their hopes of making the knockout rounds all but over.

To reach the Conference League play-offs, the Jam Tarts would have to find wins over both Rigas FS and Basaksehir, all while hoping Fiorentina pick up no more than a point from their remaining two matches against the same opponents.

In domestic action, Lawrence Shankland hit a hat-trick, including two penalties, as Hearts pushed Celtic all the way in a 4-3 defeat on Saturday and the 27-year-old is priced at 15/4 to open the scoring on Thursday.

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