West Ham United finally makes a return to European competition this season as they finished in the Europa League spot in the last season English Premier League. After almost a decade the Hammers will start the continental campaign under their new manager SlavenBilic. On Thursday night, West Ham will challenge Andorrans Lusitans in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League. However,Bilic will not directly lead the team on the pitch, he will have academy manager Terry Westley as his delegation in this match.
The match which will be played at Upton Park is a good chance for the Hammers to start the Europa League with a victory. However, they should not take their opponent lightly since Lusitans showed deadly scoring prowess with 33 goals in their eight previous matches in Europa. West Ham needs to tighten their defense and take the advantage of the host team to score as fast as possible to prevent the opponent from getting comfy with the pitch and starting to control the game.
The high expectation for Bilic to bring success for the European competition is without reason. The 46 years old coach has experienced the tension of Europa League during his time in Besiktas. In two seasons of Europa League with the Turkish club, he experienced two different ending in that competition. In 2013, he brought Beskitas finished the playoff round after defeating Norwegian Tromso but they could not continue their campaign as Court of Arbitration for sport upheld UEFA-imposed one year ban on the club following allegations of match fixing in their 2011 Turkish Cup final victory against BuyuksehirBelediyespor.
Bilic’s second experience in the Europa League was a bit better compared to his first course in the European competition. This time, his team did not have any problem with the court and they managed to play UCL as starter. He led his team finishing the third qualifying round after ruling out Feyenoord with 5-2 aggregate. The team’s campaign ended in the playoff round tie against EPL’s representative Arsenal after scoreless game in the Istanbul followed with a defeat at Arsenal home with a solo goal from Alexis Sanchez.Beskitas’ journey in Europa League ended in the last 16 with aggregate 5-2 over Belgian Brugge.
Bilic can use the Hammers’ history in 1964-1965 season when the club triumphed in the European Cup after beating TSV Munchen 1860 to fuel the players’ motivation. Bilic’s experience, the club’s history, players’ skill and a bit of luck might bring victory in this season Europa League.