Slaven Bilic defends Europa League squad selection as West Ham boss admits Premier League clash with Arsenal is the priority

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  • West Ham play Astra Giurgiu in a Europa League qualifier on Thursday
  • Tie is all square after a 2-2 draw at Upton Park in the first leg a week ago
  • Slaven Bilic has left majority of first team in London ahead of Arsenal clash
  • The Croatian boss has defended his squad selection as a calculated risk 

By Sami Mokbel for MailOnline

Published: 16:42 GMT, 5 August 2015 | Updated: 16:43 GMT, 5 August 2015

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Slaven Bilic has defended his decision to bring an under strength squad to Romania for tomorrow's vital Europa League qualifier against Astra Giurgiu.

The West Ham manager has left the majority of his first team squad back in London with the Premier League opener against Arsenal just round the corner.

Carl Jenkinson, who is ineligible for Sunday's trip to the Gunners, and Kevin Nolan are the only recognised first-team players to have made the trip to Bucharest.

Slaven Bilic faces questions from the media in Romania on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's clash

Slaven Bilic faces questions from the media in Romania on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's clash

Bilic decided to leave most of the first team squad in London ahead of the Premier League clash with Arsenal

Bilic decided to leave most of the first team squad in London ahead of the Premier League clash with Arsenal

Bilic's decision is likely to disappoint Hammers fans who are desperate for European football at Upton Park, the last campaign at the famous stadium, next season.

And the Croatian admits he is taking a calculated risk by choosing to bring a squad made mostly of youngsters, particularly with the tie finely poised at 2-2.

'It's a different squad front he the first game, but that was always the plan,' insisted Bilic.

'We were always going to play the first leg with the best team. But it was always part of our plan, because of the start of the Premier League on Sunday - which is the priority - that we would come here with a strong team - but we a team where some players have stayed at home.

Carl Jenkinson, who is ineligible to face Arsenal, is one of only two recognised first team players in squad

Carl Jenkinson, who is ineligible to face Arsenal, is one of only two recognised first team players in squad

West Ham threw away a two-goal lead in the first leg at Upton Park a week ago to draw 2-2

West Ham threw away a two-goal lead in the first leg at Upton Park a week ago to draw 2-2

'It would be very difficult to play here and then start at the Emirates on Sunday.'

Bilic, however, insists his young squad can still came away with a result to see them through in to a Europa League qualification play-off.

'We weren't happy with the result in the first leg, particularly after going 2-0 up after 55 minutes,' Bilic added.

'But this is a good game for us. It's a European game and we are very respectful of this competition.

'Can we still win? Of course, why are we here otherwise?' 

Summer signing Dimitri Payet looks for options during the disappointing draw last week

Summer signing Dimitri Payet looks for options during the disappointing draw last week

 

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