MX23RW : Friday, May 24 05:37:28| >> :600:121158326:121158326:
Jul 23, 2015 at 7.45pm UK at ​Ta'Qali National Stadium
West HamWest Ham United
Miccoli (14')
Mazzetti (108')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Tomkins (45')
West Ham win 5-3 on penalties

Preview: Birkirkara vs. West Ham United

Sports Mole looks ahead to the second leg of the Europa League second-round qualifier between Birkirkara and West Ham in Malta.

West Ham United can take a step closer to the Europa League group stage on Thursday when they travel to Malta to face Birkirkara for the second leg of their second-round qualifying tie.

The Hammers won the first leg 1-0 at Upton Park last week thanks to a late goal from defender James Tomkins.


Mauro Zarate of West Ham is challenged by Paul French of FC Birkirkara during the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round (first leg) match between West Ham and FC Birkirkara at the Boleyn Ground on July 16, 2015© Getty Images

Maltese minnows Birkirkara defied expectations last week as they escaped Upton Park with a 1-0 defeat in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier.

Giovanni Tedesco's side rode their luck at times during the match as West Ham laid siege to their goal, but they managed to leave with just a one-goal deficit ahead of the return leg at the Ta'Qali National Stadium.

Birkirkara have been in indifferent form as of late, winning just three of their last eight matches in all competitions.

They ended the 2014-15 campaign on a high by beating Maltese Premier League winners Hibernians 2-0 to clinch their fifth Maltese FA Trophy. Meanwhile, they finished the season in third place in the table.

Birkirkara have never reached the Champions League or Europa League proper despite being involved in qualifying in 14 of the past 17 seasons.

Recent form (all competitions): LWWDWL

West Ham

Manager of West Ham United Slaven Bilic looks on during the pre season friendly match between Southend United and West Ham United at Roots Hall on July 18, 2015© Getty Images

West Ham head to Malta with a slender lead in the tie following their late victory over Birkirkara at Upton Park last week.

The Hammers were dominant during the match, creating numerous chances in front of goal, but they had to rely on James Tomkins's 90th-minute winner to give them the upper hand going into Thursday's game.

Slaven Bilic was critical of his players after the first leg by claiming that they lacked the necessary quality to put Birkirkara to the sword.

Bilic's side were in action again on the weekend as they earned a 3-2 friendly win over League One outfit Southend United.

Summer signing Dimitri Payet impressed on his debut for West Ham, scoring twice and setting up another goal for them at Roots Hall as their pre-season schedule continued with a victory.

Should West Ham do enough to book their place in the third round of Europa League qualifying, they will face either Inverness Caledonian Thistle or FC Astra.

Recent form (all competitions): LWWDWW

Team News

Mark Noble of West Ham United celebrates scoring their first goal during the Pre Season Friendly match between Peterborough United and West Ham United at London Road Stadium on July 11, 2015© Getty Images

West Ham will be without Dimitri Payet and Diafra Sakho, who are both suspended for the game.

Slaven Bilic is likely to name a strong side in order to see the Hammers safely through to the next round of qualifying.

Key names such as Adrian, Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell and Mark Noble could all feature after being involved in the first leg on home soil.

Birkirkara possible starting lineup:
Haber; Muscat, Zerafa, Mazzetti, Vukanac; Camenzuli, Fenech, Muscat, Liliu; Miccoli, Murga

West Ham possible starting lineup:
Adrian; O'Brien, Reid, Tomkins, Cresswell; Noble, Nolan, Jarvis, Amalfitano; Zarate, Maiga

Head To Head

This will be only the second time that the teams have faced each other following the first leg in East London.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Birkirkara 0-2 West Ham

After labouring to a 1-0 victory last week, West Ham will be expected to show a more clinical edge in Malta. Slaven Bilic will be eager to see his side book their place in the third qualifying round without any trouble, and it is hard to see anything other than a West Ham triumph.

Who will reach the third round of Europa League qualifying?

West Ham United
West Ham United
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New West Ham manager Slaven Bilic looks on during the UEFA Europa League match between West Ham United and FC Lusitans at Boleyn Ground on July 2, 2015
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Preview: West Ham United vs. Birkirkara

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