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Slaven Bilic knows Europa league impact for West Ham


Slaven Bilic knows from experience that a lengthy Europa League campaign can have an adverse effect on domestic league form. The new West Ham boss will lead his side into a second round qualifying tie with Maltese minnows Birkirkara on Thursday night – as every other Premier League side eases their way back into their pre-season preparations. Having already seen off FC Lusitans of Andorra, the Hammers’ season is well under way and Bilic – who took Besiktas into the last 16 of the tournament last year – knows the extra games can eventually take their toll.

“The Europa League, if we qualify of course, it’s good for the club,” he said 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.”

With the first leg against Lusitans coming just 39 days after the close of last season, the club tapped into their academy to blood a number of youngsters. Those players – the likes of Reece Burke, Reece Oxford and Elliot Lee – could continue to play an important role throughout the season if West Ham progress in Europe. “It is a difficult balance,” Bilic said. “To think that you have two teams because we didn’t want to call up the senior players before 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.”

SEE MOREWest Ham re-sign Carl Jenkinson on season-long loan from Arsenal.

Having qualified for the Europa League through the Fair Play League under Allardyce, the 60-year-old saw his four-year reign come to an end following a final day defeat at Newcastle. And Allardyce also warned that progression on all fronts could see a dip in Premier League form – threatening the top-eight finish wanted by owners David Sullivan and David Gold. “Europe is going to be a defining factor,” Allardyce told talkSPORT.

“If West Ham have a very good run in Europe it could have a detrimental effect on their Premier League results. “If you play more games in Europe, along with the FA Cup and League Cup, you’re going to test the squad. “I’m not sure the squad is strong and deep enough if they have a long run in Europe. Staying clear of injuries is the most important thing in any manager’s season. “If not, Slaven Bilic could run into the same problems I did over the last four years.”

Having re-united his senior players, who have been at a training camp in Ireland, with those individuals who took part, the likes of Adrian, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Mark Noble and captain Kevin Nolan are all expected to be named in a strong-looking side. Diafra Sakho is banned having been sent off in the previous round, whilst only Pedro Obiang of the new signings is in contention.


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