Hammers face uphill task in Astra Giurgiu Europa League clash
After haplessly letting a two-goal lead slip in the first leg, Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United face a daunting trip to Romania for the second leg of their Europa League qualifying clash with defiant Astra Giurgiu.
The Hammers will kick-off their new Premier League campaign with an opening encounter against title hopefuls Arsenal, and a trip to Romania in midweek isn’t ideal preparation, though they are 9/2 with Coral to win in 90 minutes with both teams scoring.
To simplify, a 1-0 win for the Hammers would be enough, as they have to score to progress and you can get 15/2 on this outcome.
When Mauro Zarate put Bilic’s men 2-0 up before the hour mark in that disappointing first leg, they looked to be cruising, but following a red card to James Collins, the wheels fell off as their opponents bagged a potentially crucial two away goals.
Barring a 3-3 draw, which is a 70/1 chance, or an even greater stalemate, it means the east Londoners will have to win in Romania to keep dreams of reaching the group stages alive. Although, the determined hosts are 15/8 to secure a home triumph and dash any Hammers hopes.
Bilic has been tipped to field a second-string side ahead of the domestic season kicking-off, but has injury problems adding to his worries, and recent European form doesn’t bode well after winning just twice in five outings.
Not only did West Ham let their lead slip, but frontman Enner Valencia was ruled out for three months with knee and ankle injuries, so the absence of the Ecuador forward could see Modibo Maiga earn a recall.
The Mali marksman is 6/1 to open proceedings, while Reece Oxford may retain his place in the side following the suspension of Collins. Zarate was in top form in the first leg and is 7/4 to strike again anytime.
Ironically, the Hammers were entered into the competition via the Fair Play place, but Collins was the third player to be sent off in three rounds for Bilic’s men.
For the hosts, first leg goalscorer Fernando Boldrin will be a threat again on home turf and is 5/1 to net anytime.
Bilic will want to get his Premier League debut off to a flying start, but before then could face a European exit at the hands of a defiant Romanian outfit.