Preview - Birkirkara
West Ham United's UEFA Europa League qualifying campaign continues on Thursday when Slaven Bilic's men welcome Birkirkara of Malta to the Boleyn Ground.
Having seen off FC Lusitans in the opening qualifying round by a 4-0 aggregate scoreline, West Ham will hope to take a step closer to the group stage in front of another huge Bolyen Ground crowd.
Birkirkara qualified for the competition by winning the Maltese Cup last season and booked their place at this stage with an impressive victory over Armenian side Ulisses.
Thursday's visitors had to make progress the hard way, having drawn 0-0 at home, but a 3-1 second leg win on their travels completed the job.
Birkirkara were formed in 1950 and have enjoyed great success domestically in the last 20 years, winning four Maltese championships, five FA Trophies and seven Maltese Super Cups in that period.
Regulars in European competition, this is their 17th campaign in Europe, and they have won three of their 19 ties.
Before this year's triumph against Ulisses, their other victories came in a UEFA Champions League first qualifying round match against Santa Coloma of Andorra in 2010/11 and a UEFA Cup qualifying round tie against Georgia's Locomotive Tbilisi 14 years ago.
The Stripes were third place finishers in the Maltese Premier League in 2014/15, with Hibernians and Valletta beating them to the top two slots.
West Ham United
Slaven Bilic is back in the dugout for this match and is set to name a strong team as the Hammers try to make a statement of intent in the early part of pre-season.
Several players who featured at Peterborough United on Saturday could be involved on Thursday, so the likes of Mark Noble, Aaron Cresswell, Kevin Nolan and Winston Reid might be given their first competitive work-outs of the summer.
New signing Pedro Obiang is also eligible, but Diafra Sakho and Dimitri Payet will both serve suspensions
Birkirkara's main man is former Italy international Fabrizio Miccoli, who signed from Lecce in the summer. The 36-year-old is best known for his spells with Fiorentina, Juventus and Palermo, where he scored goals regularly and reached two Coppa Italia finals.
He scored in the first qualifying round win over Ulisses and is set to start again. Other notable players in their squad include Brazilian midfielder Rafael Ladesma, Maltese international goalkeeper Justin Haber and midfielder Gareth Sciberras, who has 34 caps for Malta. Left back Joseph Zerafa spent last season at Grays Athletic and Welling United.
West Ham will play their 51st match in European competition when they welcome Birkirkara to the Boleyn Ground. They have won 26, drawn nine and lost 15 of the previous 50.
Thursday's match officials all hail from Austria. Referee Markus Hameter is 35-year-old and has taken the whistle in the Austrian Bundesliga and Swiss Super League and in internationals involving Georgia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Finland and Iran. The assistant referee are Roland Braunschmidt and Andreas Heidenreich. The fourth official is Julian Weinberger.
33 ties will be played in this round of the competition, with the winners joining 25 teams who enter at the next stage.
The Stripes have notched 27 goals in their 19 European ties, conceding 79 in the process.
Their best European runs are to the first round of the UEFA Cup in 2000/01, the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League in 2010/11 and the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League this season.
The Club's Principal Partner Betway have over 100 markets on the game. Check out their betting preview here.
Tickets, Travel, Weather & TV Coverage
Tickets purchased on matchday are priced at £20 Adults and £10 Under-16s. Supporters can purchase at whufcboxoffice.com or at the Betway Stand Ticket Office from 9am.
whufc.com will carry live updates throughout the night, with live text commentary, photos and stats.
No closures are planned on the Underground lines serving Upton Park. At present, a good service is also anticipated on Greater Anglia and c2c services.
Sunny intervals are expected around time of kick-off, with temperatures of 22C/72F
Please be aware that alcohol will not be sold at the concourse concessions in accordance with UEFA regulations.
Birkirkara boss to draw on old memories
Birkirkara head coach Giovanni Tedesco will draw upon a memory of old when he brings his team to the Boleyn Ground on Thursday night.
The 43-year-old Italian, who has taken the reins at Birkirkara this summer, was part of the Palermo squad which triumphed at the Boleyn Ground and ended West Ham United's last foray into Europe nine years ago. He did not get onto the pitch in either leg of that UEFA Cup first round tie, but has fond memories of his previous trip to the East End and knows a special atmosphere will be generated by the 30,000-plus crowd. He explained: "In 2006 I was on the bench when Palermo played West Ham here in east London. It was the West Ham side with Mascherano, Tevez and Sheringham and we won 1-0 with a goal by Caracciolo. "Then we won 3-0 in Palermo so that's a very positive memory for me. We know tomorrow will be different but I hope the outcome is the same and I remember the atmosphere was fantastic. "Everything about the match, the build-up was very positive and it's a very nice memory."
Fast forward to the present and former Fiorentina and Perugia player Tedesco knows his team faces a very different task this time around.
However, he is certain that the Maltese Cup winners will give a good showing against their Barclays Premier League hosts. He explained: "We know we're up against a top team, but we're not here on holiday or to give any presents away. We deserve it and and we will play our own football to make it difficult for West Ham. "We're not here to be passive opponents, we want to play our part and we have huge desire to win. "What's important is we play here with courage, we have desire to attack and don't just come here to defend. We will do our best, we will play with heart and in these type of matches the mental side and being courageous is the most important thing."
From the Newsroom
The Times of Malta sports reporter Kevin Azzopardi says Maltese Premier League club Birkirkara cannot wait to test themselves against West Ham United in the UEFA Europa League…
Kevin, can you please start by telling us about football in Malta?
"You might already know that English football is very popular on the island of Malta. It has a wide following and there are many supporters' clubs who follow the big Premier League clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. West Ham also have a supporters' club in Malta.
"Football is the No1 sport by far. People here follow the sport closely and most have an interest in and support clubs in the English, German and Italian leagues.
"This game has created quite a good deal of excitement, as it is the first time in many years that an English team has visited the island."
We understand the tie has caught the imagination of Maltese football supporters, who do not get to see English Premier League clubs very often on the island?
"Maltese clubs have played Europa League matches at their own grounds, but this game has been moved to the National Stadium at Ta'Qali, which says everything you need to know about how big a game this is for Maltese football.
"Birkirkara and the authorities are expecting quite a big crowd. The stadium holds about 17 thousand, and I have seen a lot in the press about interest in tickets.
"The West Ham fans will be situated in the Millennium Stand, which holds just under five thousand, and they have an allocation of 3,000 tickets. I believe they are expecting around five thousand Maltese supporters to attend, so that would mean a total attendance of between eight to ten thousand."
Birkirkara finished third in the Maltese Premier League last season, but they won the FA Cup. They have been one of the best teams in Malta in the last decade, but they lacked consistency last season
What can you tell us about our opponents Birkirkara FC?
"Birkirkara are one of the biggest teams on the island and they are playing a big league match or cup final against Valletta or Floriana then you can expect a crowd of seven thousand to be there to watch.
"Birkirkara finished third in the Maltese Premier League last season, but they won the FA Cup. They have been one of the best teams in Malta in the last decade, but they lacked consistency last season.
"They have a strong squad with seven or eight internationals and their Maltese players certainly have a lot of experience. The new manager has added Fabrizio Miccoli, who played for Italy, the Slovenian forward Vito Plut from Floriana and a Bosnian winger Edin Murga.
"As for the manager, Tedesco is a typical Italian coach and appears to be very tactically astute and has attention to detail in his planning."
How do you expect the tie to pan out?
"Obviously West Ham is the favourite to advance but I think Birkirkara could give a good account of themselves.
"Another Maltese club, Valetta, played Lusitans of Andorra, who West Ham beat in the first qualifying round, and beat them 5-0 at home. The standard of Maltese football is much higher than they play in Andorra.
"If Birkirkara are still in contention after the first leg, then that will be a successful result for them in London. However, they go into the tie with a lot of expectation after winning against Ulisses in the first qualifying round.
"Usually, Maltese teams get through the qualifying round, but coming up against West Ham, who qualified through Fair Play, will make that more difficult this year."
West Ham v Birkirkara FC
15 July 2015
Last updated at 16:58
EUROPA LEAGUE SECOND QUALIFYING ROUND FIRST LEG
Venue: Upton Park Date: Thursday, 16 July 2015 Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live updates on BBC Sport website, live commentary on BBC Radio London 94.9 FM
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic admits combining domestic and European games this season will be a "difficult balance" as his team take on Birkirkara in the Europa League on Thursday. The second qualifying round tie against the Maltese side comes as other Premier League teams ease their way back into their pre-season preparations. "The Europa League, if we qualify, is good for the club," Bilic said. "It's good for the spectators and the players. But it takes from you too."
Former West Ham defender Bilic, who took over from previous boss Sam Allardyce on 9 June, led Turkish side Besiktas to the Europa League round of 16 last season. And he used some of West Ham's youth team players in the first qualifying round, which saw the Hammers beat Andorran minnows Lusitanos 4-0 on aggregate, only 39 days after the final day of last season. In order to reach the group stages of the competition, West Ham will need to play eight games. "Last year I was at Besiktas and the Europa League cost us because it was something like playing 20 games Saturday to Thursday," the Croatian added in his first news conference as Hammers boss. "[For West Ham's first round] we didn't want to call up the senior players because we're going to need them until May. In England, there is no winter break.
"But we wanted to respect the Europa League because it's a big opportunity and privilege to any club. So we wanted to find a balance."
West Ham are competing in Europe for the first time since the 2006-07 season, when they were knocked out in the first round of the Uefa Cup.
West Ham United v Birkirkara
Filed: Tuesday, 14th July 2015
By: Preview Percy
We'll admit that we don't know a lot about Maltese football here at Kumb Towers. And, having read the fruits of Preview Percy's labours on the subject we're none the wiser to be honest....
And next on our 429-match trip to European glory (all figures approximate) we have a tie in the Thursday Night Lague against Maltese outfit Birkirkara. The home leg is this Thursday at 7.45pm whilst the away leg takes place out in Malta 7 days later.
Sometimes, Ladies & Gentlemen, a small gamble on forward planning pays off. You see here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home for the Bewildered we have friends all over the world. (Except Liverpool of course. we do have standards). One of the places in which there is an outpost of comradeship is Malta, where the inmates of the Dom Mintoff Retirement Complex and Workhouse have been inviting us over for years. Now when the draw for this competition was first announced we got in touch with Professor Stephen Hawking to work out what our next round could be in the event that the Andorrans stopped rolling around on the floor for long enough for us to beat them. It took him a few hours of calculations before he came up with Ulissees of Armenia or Birkirkara, pointing out that there was a possibility of fixture reversal depending on Valetta's result. He also pointed out that, in an infinite universe, there was the possibility that there was a duplicate of planet Earth somewhere identical to ours in every way except that the Piers Morgan on that planet was a nice chap. Of course we didn't believe him on that point and we immediately had him towed away to a place of safety.
So, armed with the draw details off I went to see the rest home bursar suggesting that, if he were to use some of those funds on deposit in a Swiss bank account in his name on funding a trip to the George Cross island, I wouldn't let on as to how so much of the home's funds ended up on deposit in a Swiss bank account in his name in the first place. This left us sweating a little on the Valetta v Newtown match which, had it gone the wrong way, could have seen us stranded in Malta trying to find somewhere showing our home leg.
However, the gamble paid off which is why we now have a week in Malta paid for before all the flight prices went up in anticipation of possibly 3,000 Hammers making the trip, at the end of which we will get to see a game of football.
So what of our opponents then? Well Birkirkara FC are a relatively young club having been formed by the merger of Birkirkara Celtic and Birkirkara United in 1950. They are sponsored by McDonalds – which I am informed is a chain of restaurants specialising in minced beef products. I think I went into one once – I got slung out after the most frightful row when the waiter refused to come over to take our order for a pot of tea for two. Birkirkara play in the same colours as Melchester Rovers - though they're not nearly as successful as Ben Galloway, Roy Race, Blackie Gray and co. were over the years.
The most familiar name associated with the club in the past was that of Alan Sunderland, who has a conviction somewhere for causing death by dangerous driving or something similar. He also played for Arsenal, eventually retiring to Malta where – and I swear I didn't make this quote up – he enjoys the fact that "there's no traffic". Sunderland had a season as Birkirkara coach in the 1990's.
As a club they're on a bit of a run of European qualification having qualified pretty much every year since 1997/98, the one exception being 2007/08 when they took part only in the Intertoto. However, including the Intertoto, they've only won three of the 19 ties played so far. Their best result on paper was their 7-3 aggregate victory over FC Santa Coloma of Andorra (it's that country again) in the 2010/11 so-called Champions league qualifying stages. On closer inspection that score isn't quite as impressive as it looks though, as the 7-3 total includes a 3-0 win awarded to them by UEFA when the Andorran pitch wasn't fit to play on in time. All that rolling around by Lusitans must have damaged it. The 4-3 victory in the Maltese leg of the tie suggests that the overall result might have been a tad closer had they been able to play both legs.
They qualified for the Europa League by finishing third in the Maltese Premier League, a competition that is so complicated that, when we called Professor Stephen Hawking back he pretended to be out rather than risk ridicule by having to explain how it works. I'll give it a go though: They have two phases in the league. In phase one they play each other home and away meaning that, in a 12-team league, they play 22 matches up to this point. That takes them through to February, Then they halve the points. Yes you read that correctly, they halve the points won so far. They then play each other again – just the once mind not home and away – and after all that they call it a day and whoever is top wins the league. So last season, after their first 22 games Birkirkara were in third place with 43 points from 22 matches, which was 17 points behind league leaders Hibernians who had 60 points. In the second phase Birkirkara won 6 and drew 3 of the closing 11 matches which saw them finish on, er, 43 points which meant they had closed the gap on the Champions, Hibernians, who finished on, er, 57 points. I think there was something in there about playing your jokeras well but I can't be sure. Possibly the best thing about last season's competition was the fact that a team by the name of Pieta Hotspurs got relegated.
As mentioned earlier Birkirkara's first qualifying round match saw them prevail against Ulisses of Armenia, drawing the first leg in Malta 0-0 before coming away with a creditable 3-1 win out in , er, Ulisses. Actually Ulisses are based in Yerevan and are neighbours of Ararat Yerevan who we met in the 1975/76 Cup Winners' Cup but, since Birkirkara beat them, that's not really relevant and I apologise for wasting the last two seconds of your life. Birkirkara also won the Maltese equivalent of the FA Cup (called the FA Trophy) last season, denying Hibernians the double with a 2-0 win in the final.
Their most experienced player is probably Italian forward Fabrizio Miccoli who arrived this summer. The 36 year old striker is winding his time down in Malta after a career that saw him spend time at (amongst others) Perugia, Juventus, Benfica, Palermo, Fiorentina and Lecce. He also netted twice in ten internationals for Italy in his time. There are strong resemblances to Steven Gerrard, not in looks or in playing style, but in the fact that, like the reprehensible scouser, he has close links with some very dodgy people and was once investigated for using Mafia chums to prise money out of a nightclub owner who was said to owe him money. He also is said to have referred to a murdered investigating judge as "filth". Nice guy.
He once paid €25,000 (I think that's about £2.50) for an earring that had belonged to Diego Maradonna. Maradonna, no stranger to dodgy Mafiosi (or "legitimate businessmen" as they prefer to be called) from his time at Napoli, had had the diamond bit of tom confiscated by the Italian tax authorities to whom he owed several million Euros (probably nearly as much as £10) in taxes that he'd forgotten to pay whilst playing out there. Miccoli's not the tallest of chaps at 5ft 6 or so and recent photographs suggest that he's carrying a bit of timber in his veteran years. However, he's experienced and a bit wily though so will need watching.
Oddly, for what even their most fervent of patriots would admit is something of a backwater in world football terms, they also have a Brazilian striker. Ellinton Antonio Costa Morais who in, the Brazilian tradition, goes by the mercifully shorter nickname of Liliu. arrived after a short and apparently none too sweet spell with Israeli outfit Hapoel Ra'anana for whom he's listed as having scored zero times in as many appearances. He's not exactly settled much in his career, something that suggests that he's one of those journeymen whose agent does a decent job of marketing. Since 2009 he's been on the books of no fewer than seven clubs, encompassing spells in Belgium, Kuwait, his native Brazil, Cyprus, Israel and now Malta. His three year spell with Belgians Westerlo is the longest he seems to have stuck in one place. However his 13 goals in 21 games for Birkirkara suggests that he may have finally found a level he's comfortable with.
The skipper is Gareth Sciberras who is a Maltese international with over 30 caps to his name. Sciberras started his life out at the aforementioned Pieta Hotspurs and it;s all gone downhill for then since he left. Hmmmm. A player called Gareth leaves a team called Hotspurs and things go wrong? That sounds vaguely familiar. After a few years with the as difficult to type as it is to pronounce Marsaxlokk, Sciberras found himself relegated down a division after Marsaxlokk were implicated in a bribery scandal. Sciberras stuck around for a while though, moving to Birkika in 2011 where he's been ever since.
There may be an injury doubt over usual first choice 'keeper Justin Haber. Haber missed the second leg of the Ulisses tie after doing a hamstring in the first leg and Thursday may be a tad too soon for a return. Haber is an alumnus of Sheffield United so his injury is of course all our fault and, should Birkirkara not go on to win the so-called Champions League, we can expect a long drawn out course of arbitration until Haber can find someone gullible to believe him. If he's fit I am assured by our local correspondent, that fine fellow Maltese Hammer, that Haber's twin sister Pearl attends most matches but I have a slight suspicion that he may be pulling my leg. In the meantime should Haber be too busy suing us to play his place by Nigerian shot-stopper Iri Atkpan. He's rom Nigeria and keeps goal for a living, from which you'll gather that, thanks to the New Horizons space probe, I probably know more about Pluto than I do about him.
And so to us. The trip to Andorra ended up ok in the end despite Sakho's dismissal. Whether or not Sakho actually did anything untoward is unclear from the footage that seems to have been filmed by someone with a Chinese knock-off iPhone who was filming a particularly interesting patch o grass at the time. However, in some respects the red card didn't come as a surprise – Lusitans spent much of the first leg trying to get him sent off and he was naïve enough to put in a couple of challenges that could easily have gained him a second yellow I the first match. He'll have to wise up in later rounds lest a similar indiscretion against someone who is actually any good costs us dearly.
Sakho's red means that he'll miss both legs of this one plus the first leg of the next round should we get through. Team wise we can probably expect a similar XI to start with – though expect one or two of the more seasoned pros to be introduced. Modibo Maiga (remember him?) and new boys Payet and Hendrie have all been added to the official UEFA roster so perhaps the odd glimpse of those over the two legs might be granted.
This one is another one that we should win – Maltese Hammer for one expects the match to be over by the end of the first leg. They should, however, provide a slightly sterner test than the Andorrans – Maltese football is a bit better than that provided by our last opponents but even so we will have far too much from them over the two legs. Especially with a couple more first-teamers coming in. As with the last match I'll shy away from a specific score - Winstone's The Turf Accountants are still offering somewhat unforgiving odds on any score you care to mention. As ever let's just get through the two legs without injury and hope that we can see our name go into those wonderfully- sized brandy glasses come Friday.
Enjoy the game!
When last we met: You ask me this every week. Think about it. How likely is it that we'd have played this lot before? Stop wasting my time.
How did they get here?:That's better – a far more sensible question.
QR1: Ulisses (Armenia) h 0-0 a 3-1 agg 3-1.
Danger Man: Fabrizio Miccoli – veteran striker whose marker will find a horse's head in his bed if they upset him.
Referee: 1st Leg: Markus Hameter (Austria) 2nd leg TBA
Daft Fact Of The Week: Malta is officially the 48th happiest country in the world according to UN statistics. (We're 22nd if you're that interested). The country was awarded the George Cross as a result of the population' efforts in World War 2 and the islanders are rightly proud of the award. They also came second in the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest with the song "Angel" sung by Chiara, but they don't like to mention that much.
West Ham take on Birkirkara in Europa League second qualifying round
Last Updated: 15/07/15 9:51pm
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."
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."
West Ham will have 'definite advantage' over Arsenal thanks to Europa League says boss Bilic
22:30, 15 JULY 2015
BY JOHN CROSS
The Hammers could have played SIX competitive games by the time they visit the Emirates for Prem season opener PLUS: Alex Song move latest
Slaven Bilic has warned West Ham are ready to hit the ground running - and has already got Arsenal in his sights. Bilic, appointed as manager over a month ago, takes 'proper' charge of his first game at Upton Park on Thursday against Maltese outfit Birkirkara — which is already the Hammers' third game of the season. West Ham reported back early for pre-season, will need to play eight games just to reach the Europa League's group stage and have been warned the extra demands could blow their season off course. But Hammers boss Bilic, who sat in the Upton Park stands for the previous round's home leg, says their extra games can give them a head start and a "definite advantage" over the Gunners - who they face at the Emirates on the opening weekend of the Premier League season. If they see off Birkirkara to reach the third qualifying round, West Ham will already have played six competitive matches by the time that August 9 fixture arrives. Arsenal will have played just one - the Community Shield against Chelsea.
Bilic said: "It's good for the start, definitely. The best examples are from your own history - not from the books, the experience you have. "I only have to look at last year when we played with Besiktas. "We played Arsenal in the Champions League play-off. We were fitter than them. We had already played Feyenoord in the previous round and we were fitter. Arsenal had only played the Community Shield and Crystal Palace and we were already in the season. "It gives you a definite advantage in the beginning of the season. What about November, December or Christmas time which is already so tough here. So we're going to try be aware of all the situations."
Arsenal managed to get through to the Champions League's group stage, but beat Bilic's Turkish side just 1-0 on aggregate over the two legs. Bilic's West Ham predecessor Sam Allardyce has already claimed the Irons do not have enough players to cope with the extra demands of a European campaign they only earned via the Fair Play League. Allardyce told talkSPORT: "If West Ham have a very good run in Europe it could have a detrimental effect on their Premier League results. I'm not sure the squad is strong and deep enough if they have a long run in Europe."
Bilic made a point of paying tribute to Big Sam for leaving the club in good shape and he also agreed that getting the balance right is the key to West Ham's season. "That's a big issue," said Bilic. "In every league, in the Premier League you have so many intense games, a lot of competitions, you have two domestic cups, some clubs like us last year or like Arsenal or like many clubs who have many injuries. "That is the biggest impact. On the other hand, you have to train, if you are training you are competitive then of course of it's going to take some casualties. "That is a major issue. That can basically be one unlucky accident in training not to mention the games can damage your plans. Two or three you are finished."
Bilic will field a stronger line-up than in the previous round and he called it a "big privilege" to be taking charge of his first home game since leaving Besiktas where he was given a hero's send-off at the airport. "It's not very common here," he laughed. "I mean, you have seen Robin van Persie's welcome , it's amazing - although they are Fenerbahce fans, not Besiktas, my club, but it was great.
"I'm glad that I left Besiktas in a good situation and a good atmosphere. I can only wish that I can have the same kind of daily basis of work that I had in Turkey."
West Ham midfielder Mark Noble says their final year at Upton Park makes it the biggest season in the club's history and they are determined to start well. Noble said: "We're going into one of the biggest in the club's history. "The new stadium is a Premier League stadium. The money we're spending is a sign we want to go into the new stadium as a solid Premier League team that wants to move up.
"We get 35,000 a week and we want to get in 20,000 more. I'm confident we can do it."
* BILIC has confirmed West Ham are still hoping to sign Alex Song, despite his injury problems. Barcelona midfielder Song could face surgery on an ankle problem and his potential transfer to West Ham has been held up. But the Hammers are trying to reach a compromise with another one year loan deal on the table with a view to a permanent transfer for the ex-Arsenal star. Bilic said: "Although I said I'm not going to discuss players from other teams, he is somewhere in between. He played here on loan last year and he's a little bit injured.
"I don't deny that he was a great player who did really well last year and I would like him to stay with us."
West Ham (4-2-3-1) Adrian; O'Brien, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Poyet, Noble;Amalfitano, Nolan, Jarvis; Zarate.
Birkirkara (4-3-3) Haber, Mazzetti, Vukanac, Z Muscat, Camenzuli, Zerafa, Fenech, R Muscat, Agius, Miccoli, Plut.
Europa League Draw this Friday
Posted by Sean Whetstone on July 15, 2015 in News, Whispers
C AND H
The draw for the third qualifying round for the Europa League will take place in France this Friday. The first leg will be played on Thursday 30th July with the second leg on Thursday 6th August just two before the official start of the Premier League season.
Borussia Dortmund, Athletic Club, Sampdoria, Bordeaux and Southampton will be involved when the third qualifying round draw is streamed live from Nyon at 12pm. Twenty-five clubs received a bye to this stage and will be joined by the winners of the 33 second qualifying ties. The teams are ranked by their coefficient or, in the case of clubs emerging from the second qualifying round ties, by the higher of the two coefficients involved – with 29 sides classified as seeded. The teams are further split into five groups containing an equal number of seeded and unseeded contenders. Every seeded club will meet an unseeded opponent from within the same group.
The draw will be televised LIVE on UEFA.com
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