WEST Ham look to slay the side that knocked them out of last season’s Europa League on Thursday. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) takes a look at the odds for WLB.
Astra Giurgiu v West Ham | Thursday 19:15 | BT Sport 2
In terms of exciting sequels this really isn’t getting people panting with excitement but it’s certainly a quirk that these sides have been drawn against each other in the Europa League again.
Last year’s tie saw Astra Giurgiu go through 4-3 on aggregate after West Ham squandered leads in both legs. The Romanian side were then knocked out by AZ in the following round, failing to capitalise on their group stage appearance the season before.
Since then Astra have achieved their greatest triumph by winning their first Romanian title and there’s no doubt that this side are a progressive outfit.
Having said that Marius Sumudica’s side must have been distraught to fall at the first hurdle in their inaugural season of the Champions League. Yeah Astra were well and truly shown the door by FC Copenhagen in the Third Qualifying Round losing 4-1 on aggregate after a 3-0 loss in Denmark.
To make things even more galling, the team that finished below them in the league last season Steaua Bucharest did progress to the Champions League play off round. Their reward of course was a meeting with Pep Guardiola’s Man City, but that hasn’t worked out well.
Let’s be honest, West Ham just couldn’t be arsed last season in the Europa League. Slaven Bilic had just come in and had a massive task on his hands. The Europa League was very much an unwanted distraction. This year may be different.
Treating the Europa League with disdain worked a treat last season for the Hammers and Bilic may be tempted to walk the same path this season but I’m inclined to think otherwise.
For starters, this year they deserve to be in the competition. While last season’s entry came through the pithy reason of fair play this time round they deserve to stand tall after a wonderful 2015/16 where they finished seventh in the Premier League.
Bilic, a man with a strong beating heart, will be aware what a good run in this competition will do to the club, their fans and his reputation. I’d like to think he’ll embrace it this time round. Of course there’s still a question mark there and at odds of 3/4 best price the Hammers aren’t exactly dripping with value.
Astra come into this game boasting a fine home record in Europe. Indeed in their 13 matches in continental competition they’ve lost just twice and haven’t experienced home defeat since 2014.
As always though in these kind of matches it’s the English side who hold the key. Will the Hammers put a shift in? Which team will Bilic put out? I’m inclined to believe him when he says they’ll take it seriously this time round.
Astra have leaked in their last three home European matches and I can see the Hammers getting amongst the goals tonight. Boylesports are offering 20/21 on West Ham scoring two or more and that’s the angle I’m taking here. Come on Slaven, time to get behind this bloated competition.
Astra Giurgiu v West Ham – Over 1.5 West Ham Goals (20/21 Boylesports)