West Ham take on Birkirkara in Europa League second qualifying round
Last Updated: 17/07/15 12:18am
West Ham take on Maltese FA Cup winners Birkirkara in the first leg of the second qualifying round of the Europa League at Upton Park on Thursday night.
The Hammers will be hoping to do enough on home soil to put them within sight of the third qualifying round with the second leg to come next week.
The Premier League outfit cruised past Andorran side Lusitans 4-0 on aggregate in the previous round and head into their latest clash on the back of a 3-3 draw with Peterborough United in a pre-season friendly last weekend.
Diafra Sakho was on target again in that game having scored twice in the first leg with Lusitans, although he will be suspended after being sent off in the second leg.
Adrian, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Mark Noble and skipper Kevin Nolan are all expected to be named in a strong-looking side, whilst only Pedro Obiang of the new signings is in contention with Dimitri Payet banned.
Andy Carroll (knee) is still sidelined following an injury last season whilst manager Slaven Bilic is again likely to give game-time to a number of academy products.
Elliot Lee netted the only goal of the game in Andorra and the 20-year-old could be handed another run out while teenage forward Martin Samuelsen, who was on target in the draw with Peterborough, is in line for a starting berth.
The likes of Reece Oxford, Reece Burke and Lee could also continue to play an important role throughout the season if West Ham progress in Europe.
"The Europa League, if we qualify of course, it's good for the club," said Bilic at his first press conference since replacing Sam Allardyce.
"It is good for the spectators and individually the players. To play against clubs that play different styles. It boosts your confidence and your quality as a man and a player.
"But it takes from you too. Last year I was at Besiktas and the Europa League cost us because it was something like playing 20 games Saturday, Thursday. At the beginning it's great for you if you're winning."
It is good for the spectators and individually the players. To play against clubs that play different styles. It boosts your confidence and your quality as a man and a player.
Birkirkara head into the game having secured a 3-1 win at Ulisses in the second leg of their first-round tie.
And with former Italy and Juventus striker Fabrizio Miccoli in their ranks, the Maltese side travel to east London in bouyant mood.
Midfielder Rowen Muscat said: "We have written another chapter in the club's history by setting up a tie against top English side West Ham.
"Getting through to the next round of the Europa League after playing only two competitive matches (this season) is quite an achievement in itself.
"Progressing - and scoring three goals away from home - is a big thing. We are delighted with the performance and the way we approached this match.
"Now we must remain focused for next week and (the trip to) West Ham."