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West Ham v Birkirkara: Bilic wants to take pressure off strikers

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is keen for his team to find goals from other areas as they get set to face Birkirkara in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League.

The Premier League side cruised past Lusitans 4-0 on aggregate in the first qualifying round and head into Thursday’s clash at Upton Park having shown more good form in front of goal in a 3-3 draw with Peterborough United in a pre-season friendly last weekend.

Diafra Sakho was on target again in that game having scored twice in the first leg with Lusitans, while 20-year-old Elliot Lee netted the only goal of the game in the second leg.

Teenage forward Martin Samuelsen scored in the draw with Peterborough and, with Mauro Zarate unlikely to be available and Sakho suspended after being sent off in the second leg with Luistans, Bilic is keen for others to make an impact up front.

“It is always good to see the strikers get among the goals,” Bilic told West Ham’s official website. 

“It is good for their confidence to keep scoring goals and we have to add more goals from midfield than we scored last year.

“That was missing and we cannot just rely on strikers. It is very important that people like Mark [Noble], Pedro [Obiang], Kevin [Nolan] score their share of goals.”

West Ham are heavy favourites to see off the Maltese FA Trophy winners and reach the third qualifying round, however, Birkirkara should approach the game in buoyant mood following a 3-1 win at Ulisses in the second leg of their first-round tie, a game that saw both sides reduced to 10 men.

Birkirkara were given a heroes’ welcome upon their return from that clash in Armenia, in which former Italy and Juventus striker Fabrizio Miccoli opened the scoring.

Midfielder Rowen Muscat said: “We have written another chapter in the club’s history by setting up a tie against top English side West Ham.

“Getting through to the next round of the Europa League after playing only two competitive matches [this season] is quite an achievement in itself. 

“Progressing – and scoring three goals away from home – is a big thing. We are delighted with the performance and the way we approached this match. 

“Now we must remain focused for next week and [the trip to] West Ham.”

Tue 14 Jul, 2015
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