West Ham: LWLLWL
Kick-off: 18/08/2016, 19.15
TV: BT Sport 2
With the advantage of a second-leg home tie at their new London Stadium headquarters, West Ham’s odds of advancing to the Europa League group stage are prohibitively short at 7/50, but 21/20 about Astra Giurgiu avoiding defeat against Slaven Bilic’s side in Romania should be snapped up.
The 15/4 about the Liga 1 champions seeing off Bilic’s boys doesn’t look bad either considering West Ham’s woeful recent away record in Europe, allied with the Croatian’s undeniable ambivalence towards the continent’s consolation competition.
After signing ten players so far this summer following a fine seventh-place finish in the Premier League last term, the Irons will have few excuses if bowing out of the Europa League in the same manner, and to the same opponents, as this time last year.
Back then, Bilic fielded a scratch XI containing youngsters, soon-to-be-former players and relatively unknown newboys Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini, which wasn’t enough to ensure progression after a 2-2 first-leg draw in east London.
The 2-1 loss at the Stadionul Marin Anastasovici followed a 1-0 defeat at Maltese minnows Birkirkara, leaving the reverse scoreline away to Andorran’s FC Lusitanos as West Ham’s sole road victory in Europe in four games under Bilic.
That run includes another 2-1 away defeat against Domzale at the end of last month, which was rectified thanks to three goals without reply at the stadium formerly known as Olympic, so Bilic won’t mind defeat by the odd strike on his travels.
Considering two of West Ham’s three games so far this season have finished 2-1 to the other side, including their Premier League opener at Chelsea, as well as their past two Europa League away matches, 2-1 to Astra Giurgiu at 14/1 smacks of value.
With that in mind, bwin.com’s Evens about the match containing over 2.5 goals also warrants a wager.