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West Ham v Astra: Kouyate confident West Ham can progress

Cheikhou Kouyate believes West Ham’s new signings will stand the club in good stead in this season’s Europa League, provided they defeat Astra in the third qualifying round and then progress through a play-off to reach the group stage.

The midfielder completed 120 minutes in the second leg of West Ham’s previous qualifier against Birkirkara, which ended with a 5-3 penalty shoot-out victory for the Premier League club after the tie ended 1-1 on aggregate.

Ahead of Thursday’s first leg against Romanian side Astra at Upton Park, Kouyate praised the new additions to Slaven Bilic’s squad.

He told the club’s official website: “The new signings have impressed me a lot. Dimi [Dimitri Payet], Obi [Angelo Ogbonna] and Mani [Manuel Lanzini] have all done well so far. They are very good players. I remember watching Dimi play for Marseille and the French national team, he is a very, very good player.

“Obi came here from Juventus, he’s a nice defender in the way that he plays the game. Manuel also has very nice technique and quick feet, I am looking forward to them playing for us.

“It’s very important for West Ham that we have European football. Everyone wants to play in the best competitions, this is one of them. It’s a nice way as we go into the new stadium [London’s Olympic Stadium], hopefully we can have European football for a number of years.”

Kouyate has experience of Europe’s top competitions to draw on following his six-year spell at Anderlecht.

He added: “I always enjoyed playing in the Europa League with Anderlecht. It was a good experience, also the Champions League as well. I enjoy it a lot.

“The teams you play in the Europa League are very different to English teams. The style, the way they play football – it’s a different type of experience. Every player enjoys it, we have a good squad, I think we are ready.”

“The game against Birkirkara was very hard. I played 120 minutes in my first game of the season, in hot conditions, so it was a difficult test but this is football and I think it helped me a lot. It was very, very good preparation for the start of the Premier League season.”

West Ham defeated Lusitans 4-0 on aggregate prior to edging past Birkirkara.

Astra have already seen off British opposition in the form of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, courtesy of a 1-0 aggregate win, and reached the group stage of last season’s Europa League.

Tue 28 Jul, 2015
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