July 15, 2015 17:16:36 UK
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic is hoping his team can progress into the group stage of the Europa League in order to gain competitive midweek football.
While some Premier League managers have endured frustration at the havoc a Europa League campaign can inflict on domestic plans, the former Croatia boss is relishing the prospect – insisting it can help the Hammers at all levels.
“We want to qualify for the Europa League because it’s good for the club, the spectators and the players and it’s good to have a competitive game on Thursday,” Bilic said.
The former West Ham defender drew criticism from some quarters when he elected to allow academy boss Terry Westley oversee the first qualifying round games against Andorra’s Lusitans with a squad of mainly youth and fringe players.
We want to qualify for the Europa League because it’s good for the club.
West Ham face Maltese side Birkirkara in a second qualifying round match on Thursday, a game they are 8.00 to win 2-0, and Bilic is committed to making progress as he continues to balance European football against preparing for his first Premier League game on 8th August.
“It’s an unusual balance for us this pre-season, as until now we have had two teams. We wanted to respect the Europa League because it’s a big opportunity,” he said.
“So, we had the two teams, with some first-team players who didn’t play at the end of last season and one with the youngsters and they did well. I was flying back and forth, but now we’ll start to have normal preparations for the league season.”
West Ham are 9.00 to win their opening game away at Arsenal and Bilic is refusing to rule out some new faces arriving before they travel to the Emirates.
“We are trying to be active in the transfer window and the board have been active. We are still trying to improve our squad.
“Don’t forget the team did well last year, and we’ve brought in the players to make it better,” he added.
West Ham are 2.75 to finish in the top half of the Premier League next season.
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