UPDATE 3.25pm: I’m told the Zaza deal is very close. Within the next 24 hours maybe… Medical tomorrow.
Slaven Bilic says he will put out his strongest team, but it’s quite difficult to say what that is at the moment, given all our injuries. I suspect it will be similar to the team that played the first leg, with Reece Burke in for the ineligible Masuaku and Ogbonna and Oxford playing at centre back.
The main dilemma will be who to play up front. Assuming a 4-3-3 formation the choice of main striker will be between Calleri and the off form Valencia, although there is an increasing clamour for the impressive Ashley Fletcher to given a chance. I’d have thought Calleri will get the nod tonight.
You have until 6.40 to enter the Predictor League.
Little Mix were number one with ‘Black Magic’ when the Hammers played the first leg in front of 33,858 at the Boleyn Ground. Dimitri Payet, making his competitive debut for the club, sent over a 23rd minute cross which Ecuadorian forward Enner Valencia powerfully headed home. The Hammers then lost two players through injury before half-time, Joey O’Brien succumbing to a hamstring injury before Valencia himself was forced off with a serious leg injury – Valencia would not play for three months and O’Brien would be out for six months.
Mauro Zarate doubled the home side’s advantage six minutes into the second half with a superb solo effort to put the Hammers firmly in the driving seat. The wheels started to fall off, however, when French referee Adrien Jaccottet issued a second yellow card to James Collins, forcing the Irons to play out the final 32 minutes with 10 men. Fernando Boldrin, now at Steaua Bucharest, halved the deficit with a stunning 71st-minute strike before Angelo Ogbonna, also making his competitive West Ham debut, clipped the ball over his own goalkeeper to level the score with eight minutes to go.
West Ham United, of course, would go on to lose the second leg 2-1 in Romania and were knocked out 4-3 on aggregate. Astra would be knocked out themselves in the play-off round, losing 4-3 on aggregate to AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands.
West Ham United: Adrian, Joey O’Brien (Reece Burke), James Collins, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Cheikhou Kouyate, Reece Oxford, Mark Noble, Dimitri Payet, Enner Valencia (Modibo Maiga), Mauro Zarate (Matt Jarvis).
Astra Giurgiu: Silviu Lung Junior, Valerica Gaman, Pedro Queiros, Geraldo Alves, Junior Morais, Takayuki Seto, Gabriel Enache, Rick (Alexandru Dandea), Felipe Teixeira, William (Daniel Florea), Constantin Budescu (Florin Lovin).
Bucharest-born Ilie Dumitrescu arrived at Upton Park from Tottenham after a protracted work permit appeal which even saw the MP for Newham North West, the late Tony Banks, get involved as the Hammers finally landed their man in February 1996 for £1.5m. By the following winter, however, Dumitrescu was plying his trade in Mexico, having signed for Club America after a disappointing spell in east London.
Dumitrescu made his first West Ham appearance as a substitute in the 2-0 Premier League home win over Middlesbrough on 9th March 1996. He made two starts that month, in the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle and the 4-2 home win over Manchester City, but was not seen again until the start of the following season in the 2-1 home win over Southampton on 24th August 1996. He later played a part in a thrilling 2-2 draw with Manchester United in December 1996 before making his final appearance for the club 10 days later in the ill-fated and ignominious 2-1 defeat at Edgeley Park as Stockport dumped the Hammers out of the League Cup in a fourth round replay on the 18th December 1996. Dumitrescu made 13 appearances for the Hammers, without scoring, before signing for Club America for £1m in late December 1996.
West Ham United were one of a number of clubs the creative midfielder represented in a career that began and ended at Steaua Bucharest and included a spell in Spain (with Sevilla where he was on loan from Tottenham) and Atlante (as well as the aforementioned Club America) in Mexico. He is best known internationally for his role in Romania’s World Cup success at USA ’94, scoring two goals (both against Argentina in the 3-2 second round win, with Dumitrescu creating Romania’s other goal) in five games during the tournament – in total he won 62 caps for his country, scoring 20 goals.
Dumitrescu, now 47, retired in 1998 at the age of 29. He opened an art gallery, had a brief spell as an agent and has since managed clubs in Romania, Cyprus and Greece.
Thursday’s officials are from Germany, with the referee being 42-year-old Manuel Grafe; he was the man in the middle for 18 top-flight games in Germany last season, awarding seven penalties and showing 57 yellow cards and two reds. Grafe has refereed Europa League matches in each of the last six seasons and has officiated in qualifiers for Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup.
Slaven Bilic is likely to name a strong line-up while also giving game time to first team players who have been lacking match fitness. This could mean Angelo Ogbonna starts in central defence. Super Slav has little option but to again pitch Reece Burke at left-back with Arthur Masuaku ineligible for this play-off round. Burke could soon be set for a loan move to Brighton. Pedro Obiang could come into midfield.
Astra Giurgiu are likely to again play their first-choice right-back, 32-year-old Romanian international Cristian Sapunaru, in a defensive midfield role with 30-year-old reserve Kristi Vangjeli filling in at full-back. Manager Marius Sumudica must decide whether to start with 31-year-old Frenchman Damien Boudjemaa or 21-year-old Romanian youth international Alexandru Ionita on the right flank. Please see last week’s preview for a more in-depth look at Astra’s players and the club in general.
Possible West Ham United XI: Randolph; Byram, Oxford, Ogbonna, Burke; Antonio, Noble, Obiang, Tore; Calleri, Valencia.
The match is available to watch on BT Sport 2 in the UK (Sky channel 417 or HD 457, Virgin channel 532 or HD 528, Plusnet channel 410 or HD 432, TalkTalk channel 410) with the programme starting at 7.30pm for a 7.45pm kick-off.
When the announcement was made that London had won the Olympic bid, I just knew the Hammers would move into the new Stadium, it was despite all the subsequent shenanigans, as they say ‘written in the stars’.
For me this relocation is perfect.
Living in Highbury and working in Hackney, the journey to Upton Park and the Boleyn Ground was a pain and if driving normally meant being jammed up at Wanstead Flats with my head banging the steering wheel, (especially profound during Allardyce’s reign).
I secured my season ticket in the early months of 2015 and reasoned that virtually all the Hammers fans would make their way via Stratford and the Westfield centre.
So I devised my cunning plan, that naturally assumed I would be the only one in the know of a back-door route to the stadium via the Hackney Hipsters capital of Hackney Wick.
This was perfect for other reasons aside from travelling. I could also now look forward to…. eating tasty food.
Hackney Wick is an area I know well and as I work in the food and events industry I could look to a familiar and better choice of sustenance on match days as well as an easier route to the game… hey I even sport a beard these days, so I can slot in unnoticed.
The area is a culinary and beer delight with places like Forman’s and its reputation as the oldest smoked fish establishment in the world and with an award winning restaurant attached, the Crate Brewery with it’s in-house brewed craft beers and stone-baked pizzas that can be consumed on a rowing boat, elsewhere the German Deli bring big sausages cool dogs as opposed to hot dogs and German beers for those wonderful European nights we are surely destined to experience come the winter months.
People I know including Olympian Johnny Herbert and his brother Leon at Crea8 in the old Hackney baths could expect a visit from me. They have a bar and eaterie too.
Then there is The Counter Café a canal side venue for brunches, salads and tasty pies with real meat and proper Veggie options where you can float on the river on a pontoon (Excessive beer drinking not advised) with its views of the Olympic stadium… our new home!
For great breakfasts and brunches, there is The Hackney Pearl with yummy scrambled eggs and divine sourdough rye toast.
Oh wow the list is endless.
All this mouth-watering food is light years away from Ken’s Cafe where I once met WTID founder Iain Dale and sat there eating just a Kit-Kat for fear of revealing my food snobbery and even further light years (If that were possible) from the greasy chips and dodgy hot dogs from the trailers and vans that polluted my tummy and taste bud thoughts on match days along Green Street. We are in the big league in more ways than we imagined.
I had figured that none of this new culinary delight and alternative route to the Olympic stadium would surely be on the radar of the largely exiled East Londoners who now reside in the counties of Essex and Kent and who would ‘obviously’ zip in via Stratford International Station.
So the season beckons and match day finally arrives for the opening Premier League game against the seaside team of AFC Bournemouth and it’s on a Sunday… perfect.
I initially rationalised that my workplace which is in Clapton and close to the river Lea meant I could easily drive to work, dump the car and jump on my single speed urban pushbike and enjoy a scenic route into the stadium. But for now largely influenced by my bike being stolen (grrrr), I decide to simply drive into Hackney Wick, park up, walk across the river bridge and make my short way to the stadium… simples.
My cunning plan just like Black Adders Baldrick’s was naturally flawed, those dastardly exiled West Ham fans had got in before me and discovered the lack of parking restrictions and the ease of access to the stadium which was too tempting to ignore. So parking on the day for me was now a challenge, but I found the last spot on a bend in Rothbury Road that only I would be churlish enough to consider…. yet worse was to come.
There at the Crate Brewery and the German Deli were claret and blue shirts… everywhere.
On one side we had bewildered bearded ‘Hackney Hipsters’ the new media crew who some years back had arrived in town via Yorkshire/Staffordshire/Lancs/Berlin/Utrecht and brought with them…. err well actually forgot to bring with them razors. Here at their regular watering holes, they were faced with a sea of equally bewildered claret and blue football shirts singing bizarre gruff songs about blowing bubbles and something about ‘Irons! Irons!’ that induced a few raised hairy eyebrows amongst the metropolitan hipsters. I was going to struggle for a seat and have to queue… darn.
So then it dawned on me, we now have the early seedlings of a genetic mutation of what will become to known as…. the Hackney Hamsters.
Complete with claret beards and blue eyes singing ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ nouveau-indie style with cranking guitar and funky electro synths, whilst munching foraged mushroom drenched with fresh garlic, layered with sea-salt blighted samphire relish in organic sourdough rye bread, all whilst supping on a Climpson’s and Sons flat white coffee or swigging Kernel Wild Beer….