Thursday, July 23

Daily WHUFC News - Birkirkara FC v West Ham United

Catch the Birkirkara match

This Thursday Slaven Bilic takes West Ham United to Malta for their crucial
UEFA Europa League second qualifying round second leg tie.

Birkirkara proved stubborn opposition until James Tomkins got the late
winner last week which means the Maltese cup winners will have to come out
and attack at home.

The Hammers have arranged a special promotion with the UK sports channel
Premier Sports which means you can watch this game live and get your first
two months subscription to the channel for only £9.99 with no connection
fee. Use promo code: WESTHAMFC by calling 0871 663 9000 or visit to set-up the channel*.

Premier have asked, due to high interest, that fans wishing to view the game
don't leave it until the last minute to set-up the channel and go through
the website if possible.

*This offer is available to Sky platform customers only. The channel is also
available via Virgin and on the Premier Player online.
Calls will cost 13 pence per minute plus your telephone company's access
Terms and conditions apply. Visit for more information.

Birkirkara FC v West Ham United - Travel Advice

Advice for fans making the trip to Malta for our UEFA Europa League second
qualifying round second leg tie


West Ham United would like to thank the Club's loyal supporters for
following the team to Malta for the UEFA Europa League second qualifying
round second leg tie with Birkirkara FC.

The Club is rightly proud of its fans and would ask that you uphold the
Hammers' reputation by respecting local customs, amenities and cultures.
Fixture information

Birkirkara FC v West Ham United
UEFA Europa League second qualifying round second leg, Ta' Qali National
Stadium, Ta' Qali, Mdina, Malta, Thursday 23 July 2015, 8.45pm CET (7.45pm
Stadium information

The Ta' Qali National Stadium, is situated in Ta' Qali, near the historic
city of Mdina, near to the geographical centre of the island of Malta.

The stadium was built on the site of a military airfield that played a huge
role in defending the island during the length siege during the Second World
Ward. Ta' Qali is owned by the Government of Malta and operated by the
Maltese Football Association.

Ta' Qali has an all-seated capacity of 17,797 fans, a grass pitch and has
hosted hundreds of senior international matches since opening in 1981, and
is also the home stadium of Maltese clubs Pieta Hotspurs, Luqa St Andrew's,
Zurrieq, Balzan, Sliema Wanderrs, Msida Saint-Joseph, Gzira United and

The stadium is accessible by road and West Ham United supporters arriving by
taxi should head for the Millennium Stand, which holds 4,700 supporters and
enter through one of the eight turnstiles.

On entering the stadium, fans will be ticket checked and be searched by
security staff for any prohibited items. Seating is unreserved.

Flags and banners are welcome, but not those on sticks, but may be checked
prior to entry. Please bear in mind that flags of an overtly political,
sectarian or religious nature will not be permitted and may be confiscated.

West Ham United stewards will be travelling to Malta and will be present at
the stadium to assist supporters.

Toilet and catering facilities will be available inside the stadium.
However, UEFA regulations stipulate that alcohol will NOT be on sale inside
the stadium.

Any fans without tickets will NOT be granted access and will be removed from
the stadium area.
Fans who misbehave will be arrested and prosecuted the following day.

Getting to Malta

The Club is not arranging any official travel to Malta.

By plane…
Sitting as it does, in the Mediterranean Sea, flying is by far the quickest
and easiest route to Malta. However, the sheer number of tickets available
to West Ham United supporters means that prices have gone up rapidly since
the two clubs reached the second qualifying round.

A host of airlines offer direct and indirect flight routes between London
and Malta's Luqa International Airport, but you are likely to pay at least
£300 return per person, at time of writing. Even then, you are likely to
have to make a lengthy detour via an airport on the European mainland.

Malta is a popular holiday destination and has numerous bars, restaurants
and nightclubs which are used to catering for British tourists. Among the
areas with facilities which West Ham United fans might enjoy are nightclub
capital Paceville and St Julian's, where there are bars and clubs in

For those who would like to follow more traditional cultural pursuits, Malta
and its neighbouring island of Gozo are blessed with dozens of interesting
and historic attractions.

The capital city, Valetta, is situated in the south east of the island and
contains buildings from the 16th century onwards. It is officially
recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with St. John's Co-Cathedral
being considered the No1 tourist attraction on Malta.

If you have the time, a cruise around the Grand Harbour is not to be missed,
as it gives you a unique view and perspective of the island's
fortifications, which were built to protect Malta's historic Three Cities of
Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua from invasion.

Away from the water, the 4,000-year-old walled city of Mdina is
traffic-free, home to Malta's historic noble families and known as the
Silent City.
General information

The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English.
The currency of Malta is the Euro.
Malta is on Central European Time (CET), one hour ahead of British Summer
Time (BST).

Crime against tourists is rare although robberies, handbag snatching,
pick-pocketing and theft from parked cars can occur. Safeguard passports,
money and other valuables. Be vigilant when exchanging money and using ATMs,
and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Use the hotel's own safe if
possible. There is a low threat from terrorism.

Road Travel
You can drive in Malta using your UK driving licence. Take care while
driving as some roads are in poor condition. Keep to the speed limit. The
FCO advises that local standards of driving are poor.

The white taxi service can pick up passengers from anywhere, except
Taxi services from the Malta International Airport to all localities in
Malta are based on a fixed tariff. For more information click here.
You are advised that it is always better to enquire and agree on a fare
before you enter a taxi.

Public Transport
Malta is served by a world-famous network of around 80 bus routes, many of
which converge on the bustling central hub of the Victoria Bus Station
outside Valetta's city gates.
To reach the stadium from Victoria Bus Station, the 31 service goes direct
but is slow, with the eight-mile journey taking 40 minutes. From Ta' Qali
village, it is a half-hour walk to the stadium.
Alternatively, the X3 Express and 203 services take you to the stadium
To get to Ta' Qali National Stadium from St Paul's Bay, take the X3 Express
or 202 service.
To reach the stadium from Sliema, take the 203 or 202 services, both of
which run direct and take around 50 minutes to complete the journey.
For more information about public transport in Malta, click here.

Emergency contacts
You may telephone the Emergency Services on the following number:
112 – General Emergencies

Passports or copies of your passport should be carried with you at all times
for identification purposes if required by the authorities.

British High Commission Contact Details
British High Commission Malta, Whitehall Mansions, Ta' Xbiex Seafront, Ta'
Xbiex, Malta, XBX 1026, Malta
Email –
Telephone – (+356) 2323 0000
Fax – (+356) 2323 2234
For further FCO advice regarding a visit to Malta, please click here.

Cresswell ready for free-kick challenge

Aaron Cresswell is one of the many people around West Ham United excited by
the arrival of Dimitri Payet - although he is willing to show he is not
ready to give up free-kick just duty yet! Cresswell scored a beauty of a
free-kick against Stoke City last season and had made a habit of regularly
testing the goalkeeper from dead balls. Payet showed his prowess from those
situations by netting at Southend in his first friendly appearance since
arriving from Marseille and Cresswell reckons they can both be a threat from
their respective sides. He said: "I think there'll be a bit of competition
for the free kicks now! Hopefully he can take the right sided ones and I can
have the left sided ones. "Since Dimitri arrived in Ireland he has looked
some player. I wasn't there on Saturday, but the boys have been talking
about how good he was and how good a signing he looks to be for us. "It's
one we're excited about out, and the fans are too."

Cresswell played his second 90 minutes of pre-season in last week's 1-0
victory over Birkirkara in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League second
qualifying round tie and he is ready for the challenge presented by the
Maltese side this Thursday. He added: "We're confident going over there, but
we know it's not going to be easy at the same time, especially travelling
over there in different surroundings. "You'd imagine they'd have a different
approach for the second leg, obviously being 1-0 down. "They are the home
team, but we'll go there, play the same game and try to get through to the
next round."

The Companion Guide to Birkirkara
Filed: Monday, 20th July 2015
By: Maltese Hammer

So it's on to the second leg in Malta! For those who have little idea of
Malta and its football-crazy population I thought I'd give you all some

Malta is small, really small! 26x18 miles with a sister island called Gozo
which is a fifth of the size. Population is 400,000 so we're a bit
overpopulated with people and cars!

We've been ruled by nearly everyone under the sun...Romans, Phoenicians,
Byzantine, the Normans, the Knights of Malta, the French (alas), albeit for
two years and then finally the British from circa 1800 until 1964 when we
gained independence, and I'm sure I've left a country or two out!

We are the only country to be awarded the George Cross, and the country
suffered more bombs than London did during the Blitz. We joined the EU in
1994 and our currency is the Euro which means the rate of exchange is
seriously in your favour. We have our own language which unsurprisingly is
called Maltese, but nearly everyone speaks English to a lesser or greater

Since we entered the EU, loads of non-Maltese have begun working here
especially in catering, and also the gaming industry, which is huge. For
those who want to visit the island, Valletta and Mdina are a must. And if
you turn up early for the game, there's an aviation museum right next to the
ground which has historic war planes and all, for those interested.

But on to more important matters! Maltese love their football, with a local
passion and an equally if not greater love for teams in England and Italy in
the main, with some fans supporting the obvious German or Spanish sides
(Bayern, Real and Barcelona).

English clubs are the usual suspects...Man United, Arsenal, Liverpool,
Chelsea (yawn, yawn), but you'll find fans of all clubs here. West Ham even
have their own fan club and there's one mate I know who has a season ticket
and flies to London for each and every home game! That's a feat in itself
and even greater when you realise that all, yes, that's all Premier League
games are shown live on TV over here!

Birkirkara are a relatively new club. The older clubs in Malta are
Hibernians, Floriana, Sliema and Valetta. B'kara are well supported locally
and are always among the frontrunners. I'm embarrassed to say that I've been
to the Boleyn more often that I have to see my local side (Valetta) and
you'll find that I am not alone in that respect. That said, the level of
football has improved significantly in the last few years and I can see the
gap between local clubs and the smaller foreign ones closing a bit more.

The atmosphere in the National stadium should be good, even though the
ground has a track around it, which as far as I know serves no purpose
whatsoever! There is safety netting so anyone in lower seats has their view
impaired. That said, although tickets are numbered, no one will stick to
their seat and I am certain that other than the VIP section, you can sit
wherever you like within the section you're in.

West Ham fans are being placed in the Millennium Stand which, believe it or
not, was opened in 2000! It's the newest stand, with good views and by the
time we play the sun will have gone down so no problem seeing the game well!

Maltese fans will be welcoming and lots will come along to see the Irons
even though they support neither B'kara or West Ham! For those who want a
drink or six, there's nothing near the ground. Bugibba, St Pauls Bay, St
Julians are all seaside places with loads of bars and pubs and a 15 to 30
minute drive to the match. Local transport is good but in summer can be
busy, so allow plenty of time if you intend using it.

As for the game? I think West Ham will win 1-0, possibly 2-0, especially
with a week more to prepare and hopefully some more regulars featuring!

I hope you all enjoy your brief stay in Malta... but please bring sunblock
as it's obscenely hot right now! Then again, it is July.

Hammers to hit Mediterranean heatwave
Filed: Tuesday, 21st July 2015
By: Staff Writer

West Ham United fans travelling to Malta for the Europa League clash with
Birkirkara this Thursday are being advised to pack plenty of sun protection
cream! Temperatures in Malta's capital Valletta hit 36° centigrade - that's
an overwhelming 97° fahrenheit - this afternoon, just two days before West
Ham are due to play in the second leg of their Europa League second
qualifying round tie. And according to local weather reports the temperature
will drop slightly over the next 48 hours, but is predicted to remain as
high as 33° centigrade (or 91° fahrenheit) on the day of the game - dropping
to the high 70s in time for kick off (8.45pm local time).

West Ham - who are attempting to expand upon a narrow 1-0 lead from the
first leg at the Boleyn Ground last week - fly out to Malta tomorrow
morning, following tonight's pre-season friendly at Colchester.

Expectations high for Birkirkara vs West Ham
Times Of Malta

Valley of the tigers,' proclaims a banner in front of the Birkirkara FC
clubhouse, as elderly people talk football and gather for tea.
Valley Road in Malta's largest town is testimony of the anticipation
building up ahead of tomorrow's return match against English team West Ham
United. Only last week, Birkirkara lost 1-0 in the dying moments of the
match after putting up a spirited performance at the Boleyn Ground to leave
their fans hopeful for the return at Ta' Qali tomorrow. There is a sense of
cautious optimism among some of Birkirkara's more famous supporters.

Birkirkara - West Ham Preview: Cresswell expecting Hammers to progress
By Peter Thompson
22 Jul 2015 07:58:39

Slaven Bilic's side hold a 1-0 lead from the second qualifying round
first-leg clash against the Maltese Cup winners, with Inverness CT or Astra
waiting in the next round

Aaron Cresswell expects West Ham to avoid a Europa League shock and seal
their place in the third qualifying round when they take on Birkirkara in
the second leg on Thursday.

The Premier League club needed a late James Tomkins goal to secure a 1-0
victory in the first leg at Upton Park last week.

It proved to be a frustrating evening for the London club in front of an
expectant crowd of 33,048 who were no doubt expecting a more resounding win
in Slaven Bilic's first competitive game in charge.

Maltese Cup winners Birkirkara produced a resolute display to keep West Ham
at bay until Tomkins spared the home side's blushes by coming up with the
winner after 90 minutes.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle or Astra will be the opponents in the next
round for whoever comes out on top at the Ta' Qali National Stadium on
Thursday and left-back Cresswell is optimistic West Ham will march on.

He told the club's official website: "We're confident going over there, but
we know it's not going to be easy at the same time, especially travelling
over there in different surroundings.

"You'd imagine they'd have a different approach for the second leg,
obviously being 1-0 down. They are the home team, but we'll go there, play
the same game and try to get through to the next round."

It would be a major surprise if Birkirkara continue their European
adventure, but teenage forward Kurt Zammit took heart from their first-leg

He said: "As we knew before the match, this was going to be a very hard
battle. We studied our opponents well and obeyed all the instructions of our
coach and doing so, we didn't let them penetrate easily.

"We did what few expected, we were so close for a historic result. Getting a
standing ovation from the 33,000 home supporters at full-time shows how much
we deserved a good result.

He added: "All the team was a bit disappointed after a brilliant display in
away match, and having the game under control, and then conceding in the
last minute.

"It was harsh, but everything can be won or lost, in the next match. If
tactically we play as we played away, we will do well for sure."

Noble and squad will feel the heat
Posted by Hugh5outhon1895 on July 22, 2015 in News, Whispers

Mark Noble has admitted it's good to be taking a lead to Malta tomorrow
evening (Thurs) after getting a win over Kirkirkara despite the squad being
"unfit." The midfielder told the offiial site: ""Last Thursday was only our
second game we've played in pre-season, so we're still unfit really and it
was good to get the win. I know it was a late goal from Tonks, but they made
it difficult for us. "They were enthusiastic, they ran about a lot, but we
got the win which was the most important thing and now we've got to go out
there and try to finish the job."

The Irons face not only a sprightly opposition but will be performing in
temperatures of over 30C on the 14 mile wide holiday island
He continued: "It will be a challenge with the heat. I don't think the game
will be as quick was it was the other night because of the heat, but we're
looking forward to it. "We've had to take the games seriously from day one
because of the Europa League. We've got six games in qualifying before the
season starts, and that's going to be tough but we're looking forward to

Payet and Sakho banned for Malta
Posted by Sean Whetstone on July 22, 2015 in News, Whispers

Dimitri Payet and Diafra Sakho remain banned for the second leg of the
Europa League qualifier in Malta this Thursday evening and have not traveled
with the team. Diafra Sakho is serving the second match of a three match ban
after his sending off in the first round. He was given a red card 14
minutes into the match for an off the ball incident against FC Lusitans in
the second leg away in Andorra.
Dimitri Payet is serving his second match of a two match ban he received at
Marseille after being sent off against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions
League in December 2013 after diving in the box for his second yellow. UEFA
regulations mean suspensions carry over with the player to his next UEFA
competitive match. Both are expected to be included in the squad which face
Charlton in a pre-match friendly on Saturday.

Adrian hails warm Maltese welcome

Adrian was bowled over by the warm welcome as West Ham United arrived in a
sweltering Malta on Wednesday afternoon. The Hammers touched down at the
island's International Airport at just after midday, with temperatures in
the Mediterranean touching 35C (95F). Hundreds of supporters were on hand to
greet the players and staff came through Arrivals, and the goalkeeper,
manager Slaven Bilic and his squad were delighted to pose for photographs
and sign autographs. The No13, who was typically in high demand, told West
Ham TV he cannot wait to play against Birkirkara FC in Thursday's UEFA
Europa League second qualifying round second leg tie at the country's Ta'
Qali National Stadium. "It's exciting for us because for most of us it is
the first time we have played in Malta, so it is a new country for us and we
are excited about playing against Birkirkara here," he exclaimed. "We want
to get a good result and pass to the next round."

Hailing from Seville in the far south of Spain, Adrian is one of the few
among the West Ham squad to be used to such high temperatures, and he had
words of advice for his teammates on how to deal with the hot weather. The
Hammers will train at Ta' Qali this evening to acclimatise to the abnormal
conditions, but the goalkeeper said there are other steps that the players
can take to keep cool. "For me it's not a problem because I am adapted to
this hot climate but I would tell them to just drink a lot of water and to
take a cold shower before the game!" he advised. With just a one-goal lead
to protect going into Thursday's clash with the Maltese FA Trophy winners,
West Ham will need to keep their cool when they take to the pitch. "I have
confidence in my teammates but we need to be careful because Birkirkara are
playing at home this time and we need to keep a clean sheet and score an
early goal – that would be very important for us," Adrian confirmed. "They
have quality players and they have been playing in Europe for a long time,
so we need to be careful of them and to keep our mentality and strength in
our team. I am confident we will win and go through."

Finally, Adrian had words of thanks for the Claret and Blue Army who turned
out in their droves to welcome the Hammers to Malta – and will be out in
force again at Ta' Qali on matchday. "It's an amazing and important thing
for us," he smiled. "The Hammers are around the world and to see them here
in Malta is fantastic. We are looking forward to having Hammers from Malta,
England and other countries there to support us in the game."

Reid ready for hot Malta test

Winston Reid says West Ham United will approach Thursday's UEFA Europa
League tie with Birkirkara FC like any other match. The Hammers will face
searing heat, a partisan 15,000-strong Maltese crowd and opponents
determined to overturn their 1-0 first-leg deficit on home turf at the Ta'
Qali National Stadium. Having captained both West Ham and New Zealand and
played in the Middle East, South Africa and China, Reid insists he and his
teammates will be fully prepared for the Stripes. "I think we are going to
have to manage the game in the heat and use our experience and it's just one
of those things you have to deal with," said the defender. "It's a factor
and we have to make sure we manage how it affects us and we'll do our best
to do so. "Getting off the plane it was like walking into a brick wall. It's
just one of those things. We knew it was going to be a hot place to come to
and we will feel how it is in our training session, so we will see how it is
for the game. "I have played competitive matches in heat before and it is a
factor, but we are professional you don't have to worry about it too much.
We'll prepare for it, hydrate as well as we can and, come game time, we will
be ready for the game."

Reid made his European debut for the Hammers in the first leg, having
previously played in continental competition as a youngster for Danish side
FC Midtjylland in 2007 and 2008. Having signed a new long-term contract
earlier this year, the 26-year-old is now focused on achieving great things
in a Claret and Blue shirt, starting with a run in the Europa League this
season. "Yes, playing in Europe was one of the things I wanted to do and I
felt I could achieve it with this club," he confirmed. "These first few
rounds are tough games against teams we are not really used to, but we want
to progress and reach the group stage, obviously. "I think we have shown by
our dedication and training that we aim to do that and I am sure, come
Thursday night, we will go out there and put in a professional performance."

Miccoli - We've got our weapons too

Experienced Birkirkara frontman Fabrizio Miccoli insists he saw plenty in
the first leg at the Boleyn Ground to suggest the Maltese outfit have a
serious job on their hands to overturn the Hammers' one-goal lead. The
36-year-old Italian counts Juventus, Fiorentina and Palermo among his former
employers and is determined to use the nous acquired in some two decades in
the game's upper echelons to give his new employers a helping hand. While
Miccoli is naturally excited by the prospect of a high-profile tie at
Malta's Ta' Qali national stadium on Thursday, he concedes the second
qualifying round draw could have been a whole lot kinder. "It goes without
saying that we are fully aware of what we're up against, it was clear from
the first leg," he said. "But we also have our own weapons and we will try
to use them. As long as we give everything we can on the pitch, nobody can
ask any more of us. "I believe that Maltese football is on the up, not only
with Birkirkara, but also with other Maltese teams in Europe lately, there
seems to be an upward trend. We were both fortunate and unfortunate to come
up against West Ham. Fortunate in that it's a prestigious encounter, there
are also going to be 15, 16,000 people at the stadium. On the other hand, we
could have come up against a team on an equal footing to us and maybe had a
better chance of qualifying. In tomorrow's game we will try our best and see
what happens."

The former Italian international only joined Birkirkara in June, but already
feels part of the furniture and hopes to return the favour with West Ham in
town. He continued: "From day one I was considered one of them. They helped
me settle in and I feel really settled now. My aim is to try and help them
with my experience and do whatever it takes to help them grow in whatever
way I can."

Tedesco - 'We are going to give it our best shot'

Birkirkara FC head coach Giovanni Tedesco says his players will 'give it
their best shot' to knock West Ham United out of the UEFA Europa League. The
Hammers arrive in Malta 1-0 up from their first leg of their second
qualifying round tie, having dominated proceedings at the Boleyn Ground, but
the circumstances and surroundings will be very different at the Ta' Qali
National Stadium. The Maltese FA Trophy winners be on home turf and cheered
on by more than 10,000 supporters, but they will also have the weather on
their side, with daytime temperatures on the Mediterranean island
approaching 35C (95F). While he knows his team face a very tough task to
oust Slaven Bilic's side from the competition, Tedesco says they are in
confident mood following their resilient first-leg showing in east London,
and a fine first qualifying round win over Armenian club Ulisses. "This is
an easy match to prepare for because we are playing against a very good team
and the motivation is high," said Tedesco, who was part of the Palermo squad
which knocked West Ham out of the UEFA Cup nine seasons ago. "We are going
to give it our best shot and the rest will take care of itself. "We know we
have to score a goal but it is not something we can just say and will happen
on the pitch. This is something completely different. "There has been a
growth in our team and I want these games to become something of the norm,
and not something that is looked as an extraordinary experience. "We know
that the team comes before everything else and we feel that, with our
performance at Upton Park, following on from our performance away in Armenia
we are on the right track to becoming a team that looks at these games as
something of the norm."

We know we have to score a goal but it is not something we can just say and
will happen on the pitch. This is something completely different More than
15,000 tickets have reportedly been sold for the tie, which was switched
from Birkirkara's own ground to the 17,800-capacity Ta' Qali National
Stadium. Tedesco says the support of Maltese fans, regardless of their usual
club commitments, will inspire his players to an even higher level of
performance. "Definitely the 15,000 people who come and support us will be a
great help, but that is not enough, because we know we are playing against a
very good team so other things come into play. "Definitely the supporters
can give us a big lift and hopefully we can use their support to help us
overcome our opponent on Thursday."

Aside from the huge level of support from the stands, Tedesco is also
banking on his star player Fabrizio Miccoli being fit for the second leg.
The head coach revealed that the former Italy international forward, now 36,
has been carrying an injury and may miss the game. "We do have a full squad,
but we do have a number of question marks over three or four players,
including [captain] Paul [Fenech, who was substituted in the first leg] and
also Fabrizio, who trained individually during the week. "We still have 24
hours until the match and will have our last training session after the
press conference and we will observe the situation in the hours ahead of the

Bilic: it's like a sauna out here!
Filed: Wednesday, 22nd July 2015
By: Staff Writer

Slaven Bilic likened the oppressive heat in Malta to a sauna this afternoon,
when speaking during his pre-match press conference this evening. Bilic, who
arrived with his squad for the second leg of their Europa League clash with
Birkirkara was surprised by the extreme heat, which even the locals have
been complaining about in recent days. However he believes his squad will be
capable of dealing with the adverse conditions as they attempt to secure
passage to the third qualifying round, and a meeting with either Inverness
CT or Romanian outfit Astra Giurgiu. "The heat is a problem," he admitted.
"When we came it was like a sauna, but we are experienced and should be good
enough to dictate the game. "The score [in the first leg] was not ideal; we
were hoping to score one more goal. We should have scored earlier, which we
deserved, but in the end we had a positive result - and it should be enough
if we score."

And even though they are behind in the tie, Bilic feels that his opponents
are unlikely to press from the start - preferring instead to remain compact
and defensively solid, as per last Thursday's tie at the Boleyn. "In the
first leg, they went on the pitch as a unit and that impressed me most, as
did the two centre-halves and the 'keeper," he said. "I hope they will
change their approach, but I don't think they will. They might press, but
it's down to us how we let them play."

Maltese cross as West Ham insult local club
Filed: Wednesday, 22nd July 2015
By: Staff Writer

West Ham United's arrival in Malta earlier today was a controversial one -
after a slur against FC Birkirkara's rivals Floriana was posted on the
club's official social media channels. Upon arriving in Malta earlier this
afternoon ahead of tomorrow night's Europa League clash, West Ham United
posted images of supporters greeting local fans vis their social media
channels. However the club unwittingly including a location tag that
included a vile comment directed at Birkirkara's local rivals - something
that led to a furious response from Floriana vice president Matt Paris.
"It's shameful that an English Premier League club engaged in this sort of
attitude," he said in response to the foul tweet. "West Ham United, shame on

Whoops-a-daisy: the foul message (which basically translates to 'f*ck
Floriana') found its way on to Twitter and Facebook before being spotted

According to the Times of Malta, Floriana mayor Davinia Sammut Hili - a keen
supporter of her local team - also criticised West Ham, but acknowledged
that the club had moved to rectify the mistake as soon as it had been noted.
It is unclear how the offensive location tag came to be included in the
club's posts. Last season Birkirkara finished third in the Maltese Premiere
League, two places ahead of Floriana - who finished seven points behind in
fifth place.

Birkirkara v West Ham preview: Hammers take slender lead to Malta
Last Updated: 22/07/15 5:37pm

West Ham take a slender lead to Malta on Thursday night for the second leg
of their Europa League second qualifying round tie against Birkirkara. James
Tomkins rescued the Hammers with a 90th-minute strike to give Slaven Bilic's
men a 1-0 win in the first leg at Upton Park last week. The Premier League
side were expected to brush the Maltese Cup winners aside, but West Ham will
now have to be on their guard to ensure they make it through to the third
and final qualifying round. West Ham could meet Scottish Premiership side
Inverness at the next stage after they were drawn together, but John Hughes'
men will have to overturn a 1-0 deficit to Astra Giurgiu to make it through.

After the Hammers' win last week, Bilic admitted he was relieved Tomkins
gave them a first-leg lead but did say he was pleased with his side's
display. "It is more relief because we scored at the end, but I think we
played well, especially the first half," he said. "We didn't play really
quick, but quick enough against this type of opposition. They are a decent
side, they are not, with all respect, Real Madrid, but they are not like the
team from Andorra or San Marino. They can make your job more difficult."

The Croatian later admitted it would be both an adventure and a challenge if
they progressed in the competition. "The Europa League is great for the
club, you could see with the spectators, they are enjoying it, against
people from Andorra and Malta - they all love to come for a European night,"
he said. "It is great for a team - it gains not only confidence, but they
are different types of games, so it is good for us and for me. "But on the
other hand, it drains you. "I did it a few times last season, when it was
great for Besiktas, but it was also very difficult to play on Thursday in
Liverpool, then on the Sunday you have an away game in Turkey."

Team news

Dimitri Payet impressed on his West Ham debut as he scored twice against
Southend at the weekend, but he is unavailable on Thursday due to

Diafra Sakho is also banned from playing in their second-leg clash, but
Bilic is still expected to name a strong line-up in Malta.

Mauro Zarate and Modibo Maiga led the line for the Hammers in the first leg,
while Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan started in midfield, and all four could
feature again, with Adrian expected to be in goal once more.

Opta facts

West Ham have won three European games in a row - after failing to win any
of the previous four.

Birkirkara failed to register a single shot on target in the first leg.

English sides have won six of the seven meetings against Maltese clubs -
drawing the other - scoring 26 goals and conceding just one.


West Ham are 12/1 to be left to rue their disappointing first-leg showing
and be knocked out of the Europa League, with Birkirkara up against
substantially shorter odds for the return encounter. Sky Bet offered 50/1 on
the Maltese outfit winning at Upton Park but go 7/1 for the minnows to
triumph on home turf, while the Hammers are 1/3 for the win. Slaven Bilic's
men are considered 50/1 chances to win Europe's second-tier tournament, with
fellow Premier League outfits Tottenham, Liverpool (both 16/1) and
Southampton (25/1) all considered more realistic contenders.

Kouyate joins Europa League squad in Malta
Posted by Sean Whetstone on July 22, 2015 in News, Whispers

Five days ago first team coach Julian Dicks cited fitness as the reason for
Cheik Kouyate being unavailable for the first leg of the Europa league match
against Birkirkara at the Boleyn ground.

Kouyate played sixty minutes in a pre-season friendly at Roots Hall last
Saturday as West Ham beat Southend United in 3-2.

Just six days later Kouyate must now be deemed fit enough to be included in
the squad that flew to Malta at lunchtime as he was pictured in his fetching
long flight socks stepping off the chartered jet in the bright sunshine.


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