Pressure of a European final? What pressure?! West Ham stars head for a water park and the golf course on a training camp in Portugal, a week before their biggest game in 43 years
- West Ham will meet Fiorentina for the first time since 1975 Anglo-Italian Cup
- Prague prepares final security measures after fan violence at AZ Alkmaar
- Europa Conference League final: When is the game, and how you can watch it
West Ham stars took a break from preparations for their Europa Conference League final next week to unwind at a water park and golf course at their training camp in Portugal on Tuesday.
David Moyes’ players will face Fiorentina at the Fortuna Arena in Prague on June 7 for their first chance to lift major silverware in 43 years, when the side beat Arsenal to win the 1980 FA Cup.
But after a punishing season in the Premier League came to a close on Sunday with a 2-1 defeat against relegated Leicester, the side were rewarded with some well-deserved time off.
Captain Declan Rice was pictured in a golf cart with Tomas Soucek in the middle of a round of golf, and the players later spent a sunny afternoon in the Algarve at a water park, posing for group pictures and trying out the rides.
On a boat ride, the team were in high spirits, singing fan chants for Said Benrahma and Kurt Zouma as they twisted through the waterways.
West Ham stars were able to take some time to unwind amid their preparations for the Europa Conference League final next week
Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek enjoyed a round of golf in the Portuguese sunshine during their time off
The players visited a water park and sang fan chants as they tried out the park’s different slides
The players’ warm-weather training camp in Portugal is an effort from the coaching staff to get the squad ready for the final whilst treating them to a change of scenery to move the side on from the Premier League season and onto the challenge ahead.
Speaking to the club’s official website, first-team fitness coach Josh Ewen said the challenge involved: ‘Ticking the players over and making sure, with a week or so to go, that we’re doing the right things to ensure they’re match ready come next Wednesday.
‘It’s been a long, hard season – we’ve played 56 games in all competitions – so everyone has been pushed to their limits, but we’ve got a near fully-fit squad with us in Portugal and there’s a great spirit in the camp.’
Ewens added: ‘It’s very rare that you get ten days to prepare for a fixture, so we felt it was beneficial to get away, even only for a few days, to break things up and give the boys a bit of a change of scenery.
‘Of course the preparation is the most important thing, but there’s also a lot to be said for doing things in a different environment too, and with good weather guaranteed here, it was a great opportunity to get the boys away and prepare accordingly for what’s to come.’
The Hammers’ European campaign has been a bright spot in an at-times sticky season for the east London side, who narrowly avoided being drawn into a relegation battle in the final few weeks of the league season.
An emphatic victory against Gent at home in the second leg of their quarter-finals tie lit the spark of belief that Moyes’ players could go all the way, before the side booked their spot in the final with two strong performances against Eredivise outfit AZ Alkmaar in the semi-finals.
West Ham beat AZ Alkmaar in both legs of their semi-final clash to book their ticket to Prague
The final could be the last time that Declan Rice features in a West Ham jersey after over nine years in east London
Victory in Europe would not only see the Hammers make history and bring the Europa Conference League trophy back to the London Stadium for the first time, but serve a fitting farewell to Rice, who looks set to leave the side during the summer transfer window.
The midfielder has been a lynchpin since his move up to the first team in 2017, but the club will find it hard to ignore both the player’s personal ambition and the high fee the 24-year-old will command.
Mail Sport revealed that Bayern Munich is the latest elite side preparing a move for the England international, willing to offer £87million for Rice plus players in the opposite direction.
In the Premier League, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal are all also in the running to secure the captain’s services next season.
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