Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Astra v West Ham

The Stadium

The second leg of West Ham United’s Europa League third qualifying round against Astra will take place at the Stadionul Marin Anastasovici. The stadium can hold 8,500 spectators and was the home of Dunarea Giurgiu from 1963 until Astra arrived in Giurgiu from Ploiesti in 2012.

The Claret and Blue Army have been allocated 500 tickets in the Blue Stand, which is within the north-west corner of the stadium – the views from the stands are restricted by a large wire fence which will form a cage around the visiting Hammers. Facilities are also basic with toilets provided via temporary installations. The stadium also has no North Stand, so there are no supporters behind one of the goals.

For more information on the stadium, visit the excellent Football Tripper website

The Country

Romania is in southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea between Ukraine and Bulgaria. It also borders Moldova, Hungary and Serbia. Romania has 19.9 million inhabitants and its capital, Bucharest, is the sixth largest city in the European Union. The official language is Romanian and Europe’s second largest river which flows through ten countries, the Danube, empties in Romania’s Danube Delta.

For a more in-depth look at Astra as a club and some of their key players, please see last week’s match preview. The match is available to watch on BT Sport Europe in the UK (Sky channel 414, Virgin channel 532) with the programme starting at 6.30pm for a 7pm kick-off.

Blast from the past

Having defeated Castilla in the European Cup Winners’ Cup first round (the second leg played behind closed doors at Upton Park after crowd trouble in the first leg), the Hammers came up against Poli Timisoara of Romania in the second round in the autumn of 1980.

In front of 27,157, Billy Bonds’ looping header from a Ray Stewart free-kick put the Hammers in front and it was 3-0 by half-time as Paul Goddard slammed in a rebound and Stewart smashed home a penalty in typical style. David Cross tapped in the only goal of the second half as the Irons recorded a commanding 4-0 first leg lead.

West Ham United (first leg, 22nd October 1980): Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Alvin Martin, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard, Jimmy Neighbour, Geoff Pike, Pat Holland, Alan Devonshire, Paul Goddard (Nicky Morgan), David Cross.

A crowd of 25,000 were in attendance for the second leg as the Romanians triumphed 1-0 at home but those four first leg strikes back at the Boleyn were enough to see the Hammers safely through to the third round with an aggregate score of 4-1. The Hammers struggled against the electrifying eventual winners of the competition, Dinamo Tbilisi, in the quarter-finals the following March however, losing 4-1 at home before travelling to the Soviet Union and winning the away leg 1-0 – typical West Ham!

West Ham United (second leg, 5th November 1980): Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart (Paul Brush), Alvin Martin, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard, Jimmy Neighbour (Trevor Brooking), Pat Holland, Paul Allen, Geoff Pike, Paul Goddard, David Cross.

Romanian Connections

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. Harry Redknapp’s ‘West Ham United Nations’ produced a high-octane, thrill-a-minute second half in that match as the likes of Dumitrescu, Florin Raducioiu (a focus in last week’s preview) and Paulo Futre combined with new Hammers manager Slaven Bilic and current coaching assistant Julian Dicks to mount a successful comeback against the Saints, with Dumitrescu winning the match-clinching penalty. The highlights of this match can be seen in the video below. 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 46, 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.

Referee

Thursday’s officials are from Italy, with the referee being 37-year-old Paolo Valeri; he was the man in the middle for MTK Budapest’s 0-0 Europa League qualifying first round first leg draw with Vojvodina last month and more recently took charge of Lech Poznan’s 2-0 win at FK Sarajevo in the second qualifying round of the Champions League. Valeri showed six yellow cards in each game. The Roman also refereed last season’s Supercoppa Italiana match between Juventus and Napoli.

Possible line-ups

Astra are expected to name their strongest available line up as they bid to knock the Hammers out of European football, with star men Silviu Lung Jr, Junior Morais and Constantin Budescu all set to start.

By contrast, Slaven Bilic is likely to name a largely second string line-up with the Premier League away match at Arsenal on Sunday being deemed the priority. James Collins is suspended, while James Tomkins, Aaron Cresswell and Mark Noble are amongst the many first-teamers left at home. Carl Jenkinson will definitely start in Romania as he is ineligible for the trip to his parent club at The Emirates due to Premier League rules. The likes of Darren Randolph, Lewis Page, Diego Poyet, Kevin Nolan, Manuel Lanzini and Modibo Maiga could all be given a chance to impress. Josh Pask, a tall, quick and composed 17-year-old centre-back from Manor Park who joined the Academy at the age of eight and turned down Arsenal and several other Champions League clubs to sign a long-term deal with the Hammers last summer, could make his first start.

Possible Astra XI: Lung; Queiros, Gaman, Alves, Junior Morais; Teixeira, Seto; Enache, Boldrin, William; Budescu.

Possible West Ham United XI: Randolph; Jenkinson, Pask, Henry, Page; Poyet, Cullen; Maiga, Nolan, Lanzini; Lee.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!


Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Astra

The Club

Astra Giurgiu were founded in 1921 as Astra Romana Sports Club in Ploiesti, a city north of the Romanian capital Bucharest. The club was taken over by Ioan Niculae in 1990 and embarked on its first season in Romania’s top flight in 1998/99. Niculae moved the club from Ploiesti to Giurgiu in 2012 and the club finished 4th in the 2012/13 season, qualifying for the Europa League and ensuring continental competition for the first time in their history. 2013/14 saw Astra record the most successful season in their history finishing 2nd in the league to Steaua Bucharest but winning the Romanian Cup by beating Steaua on penalties. ‘The Black Devils’ finished 4th last season.

Astra negotiated their way through the Europa League’s three qualification rounds to reach the play-off for the group stage in 2013/14, only to be defeated 3-1 on aggregate by Maccabi Haifa. The Black Devils went one better last season though, qualifying for the group stage by defeating French giants Lyon on away goals in the play-off. They subsequently finished bottom of a group containing Red Bull Salzburg, Celtic and Dinamo Zagreb, although they picked up points at home with a draw against the Glasgow side and a win over the Croatians. They did lose 5-1 twice in the group stage, in the away matches in Salzburg and Zagreb.

While Niculae remains the club’s owner, the chairman is former Romanian international goalkeeper Danut Coman, a 36-year-old best known for his two spells with Rapid Bucharest. Head coach Marius Sumudica is a 44-year-old who has recently embarked on his third spell in charge of the club. Sumudica, a former striker standing at 5’10, won the Romanian League with Rapid Bucharest in 1999 and the Romanian Cup with the same club in 1998 and 2002. He has previously managed an array of clubs in Romania, as well as enjoying brief spells coaching in Greece and the United Arab Emirates.

The Players

One of Astra’s most notable players is 26-year-old goalkeeper Silviu Lung Junior, who will wear number 1 and stands at 6’2. He is the son of Silviu Lung, who was also a goalkeeper who won 77 caps for his country between 1979 and 1993. Lung Senior represented his country at Euro ’84 and the 1990 World Cup in Italy, where he was captain in all four matches but couldn’t keep out any of Ireland’s penalties as Pat Bonner’s save from Daniel Timofte and David O’Leary’s famous final spot-kick knocked the Romanians out in the second phase. Lung Junior started his career with 57 appearances for Universitatea Craiova between 2007 and 2011, during which time he was the regular goalkeeper for the Romanian Under-21 side. He signed for Astra in 2011 and has since made over 100 appearances for the club. Lung Junior has won six full caps for Romania.

Junior Morais, who will wear number 13, is a Brazilian left-back who first played for Sao Caetano in the Sao Paulo region in the 2008/09 season before moving to Freamunde, a second tier Portuguese club. The 29-year-old signed for Astra in 2011 where he has since scored 5 goals in 140 matches, winning both the Romanian Cup and the Romanian Supercup in 2014.

Constantin Budescu is a 26-year-old forward who will wear number 10. Standing at 6’1, Budescu started his career with Petrolul Ploiesti where he scored 41 goals in 151 appearances. He signed for Astra in 2011 and has since scored 53 goals in 133 matches and grabbed the only goal of the tie in the last qualifying round against Inverness with a dipping, curling free-kick. Budescu has won three caps for Romania.

Blast from the past

Having won the Intertoto Cup by defeating Finland’s Jokerit, Dutch side Heerenveen and French club Metz, and winning through against Osijek of Croatia in the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup first round, the Hammers came up against Steaua Bucharest in the second round.

The first leg in the Romanian capital, a trip which featured West Ham’s players attending the launch of the Romanian edition of Playboy magazine, ended in defeat as goals from Laurentiu Rosu and Sabin Ilie in either half, the second the result of a rare mistake by Steve Potts, put the hosts in charge of the tie on a dreadful pitch. Paolo Di Canio, booked for throwing the ball away in the first half, was substituted on the advice of the Danish referee, who admitted telling Hammers boss Harry Redknapp, “I said for him to be careful of Di Canio because next time he made me angry I would send him off". Frank Lampard almost grabbed what could have proved a crucial away goal on a number of occasions, seeing a late header ruled out for offside, heading against the bar and seeing a free-kick deflected wide.

West Ham United (first leg, 21st October 1999): Shaka Hislop, Steve Potts (Javier Margas), Rio Ferdinand, Neil Ruddock, Steve Lomas, John Moncur, Marc-Vivien Foe, Frank Lampard, Trevor Sinclair, Paulo Wanchope, Paolo Di Canio (Joe Cole).

A frustrating second leg back in London saw the Hammers throw the kitchen sink at Steaua but fail to convert numerous chances into goals. Di Canio was given an injection to play due to an ankle injury and a 17-year-old Joe Cole started with creativity the order of the day but profligacy and a defiant, if unorthodox, performance from goalkeeper Zoltan Ritli ensured the Hammers exited the competition.

West Ham United (second leg, 4th November 1999): Shaka Hislop, Javier Margas, Rio Ferdinand, Neil Ruddock, Trevor Sinclair, Steve Lomas, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Marc Keller (Paul Kitson), Paulo Wanchope, Paolo Di Canio.

Romanian Connections

Bucharest-born Florin Raducioiu arrived at Upton Park from Espanyol for a club record fee of £2.4m in the summer of 1996, having scored his country’s only goal at Euro ‘96. By the middle of winter, however, he was back in Spain, having played just 12 games and scored 3 times.

Raducioiu registered his first West Ham goal in the 1-1 League Cup home draw with Stockport on 27th November 1996. He notched his first Premier League goal against reigning champions Manchester United on 8th December 1996, the Romanian’s strike halving a 2-0 deficit in the 78th minute to kickstart a cracking comeback completed by Julian Dicks’ thunderous penalty.

Raducioiu denies the claim that he went shopping at Harvey Nichols rather than travel north for the League Cup fourth-round replay defeat at Stockport, saying: “It is not true that before a cup game I went shopping and left the team without a striker”. His third and final goal for the Hammers came on 28th December 1996 in a 2-0 win over Sunderland; new Hammers manager Slaven Bilic scored the first goal that day. Raducioiu formed strong friendships with Bilic and club legend Ludek Miklosko before returning to Espanyol for £1.7m in January 1997.

Speaking to the official website in 2009, Raducioiu stated: “I am very sorry about what happened. I was an important signing for West Ham at that time and I remember Harry Redknapp wanted me a lot and Ilie Dumitrescu was a good friend of mine and playing there. I made a mistake, I wasn’t ready for English football. The way of training was completely different and it led to problems. I’d like to say a big ‘sorry’ to the great fans at Upton Park. My character was a bit aggressive. It was something between two people but I don’t want to offend anybody at West Ham. I had my faults, I should have worked much harder to adapt to the English system”.

West Ham United were one of a number of clubs the striker represented in a career that began at Dinamo Bucharest and included spells in Italy (with Bari, Verona, Brescia and AC Milan), Spain (Espanyol), Germany (Stuttgart) and France (Monaco). In doing so, Raducioiu is one of only two professional footballers, alongside Christian Poulsen, to have plied his trade in the top five European leagues (Germany, Spain, Italy, France and England). He is best known internationally for his four World Cup goals for Romania at USA ’94 – in total he won 40 caps for his country, scoring 21 goals.

Raducioiu, now 45, retired in 2004 after a short stint with modest French side US Créteil-Lusitanos. He had a brief spells as a sports agent and as sporting director at Dinamo Bucharest. He has since taken his coaching badges at the Italian FA’s training centre in Coverciano with a view to returning to football and moving back to Brescia, his wife’s home city, permanently.

Referee

Thursday’s officials are from Switzerland, with the referee being 32-year-old Adrien Jaccottet; he was the man in the middle for FC Astana’s 2-0 Europa League qualifying second round second leg victory over NK Maribor last week. Jaccottet showed five yellow cards and one red in that game.

Possible line-ups

Slaven Bilic is likely to name his strongest available line-up. At the time of writing, James Tomkins has not had his appeal heard and remains suspended (this preview was written early – I’ll be on holiday in Cyprus by the time this is published) while Winston Reid is injured so James Collins and Angelo Ogbonna could form the central defensive partnership. Enner Valencia could start and Dimitri Payet should make his first competitive appearance for the club. Martin Samuelsen could also start after Morgan Amalfitano and Matt Jarvis both played for an hour in Tuesday’s win at Norwich. Diafra Sakho remains suspended so Mauro Zarate is likely to play.

Astra are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. As well as the aforementioned Brazilian Junior Morais, Astra can boast a few foreign talents to play alongside their Romanian contingent. 30-year-old right-back Pedro Queiros and 34-year-old midfielder Felipe Teixeira both hail from Portugal – Teixera used to play for West Brom and Barnsley. 29-year-old holding midfielder Takayuki Seto is Japanese and has been at the club for eight years. 26-year-old attacking midfielder Fernando Boldrin and 23-year-old left winger William, who scored in the 81st minute of the 1-1 Europa League group stage draw against Celtic last season, are both from Brazil. Astra were accused by Inverness’ David Raven in the last round of underhand gamesmanship and “going down when they hadn’t been touched” – considering the recent dismissals of James Tomkins and Diafra Sakho in European competition, this could be something the Romanians target against the Hammers.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; O’Brien, Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Noble, Kouyate; Samuelsen, Payet, Valencia; Zarate.

Possible Astra XI: Lung; Queiros, Gaman, Dandea, Junior Morais; Teixeira, Seto; Enache, Boldrin, William; Budescu.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!


Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Birkirkara v West Ham

The Stadium

The second leg of West Ham United’s Europa League second qualifying round against Birkirkara will take place at the Ta’Qali National Stadium. The stadium can hold 18,000 spectators and is the largest stadium in Malta, hosting international matches. Opened in 1981, the stadium has a top-of-the-range floodlighting system, an electronic scoreboard, a public address system, a media centre, VIP lounges, a gymnasium and a physiotherapy clinic – the Millennium (East) Stand, where the Claret and Blue Army will be found, holds 5,000 spectators and houses the Malta FA Headquarters, six executive boxes and a secluded spectator balcony with an adjacent foyer.

Those travelling Hammers who are making the trip face a more simplistic trip than that offered by the previous tie in Andorra, with Malta being easily accessible by air.

The Island

Malta is a southern European island in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Italy. Malta is one of the world’s smallest countries and its capital, Valletta, is the smallest national capital in the European Union. The official languages are Maltese and English and the island was awarded the George Cross by King George VI in 1942 for the country’s bravery in the Second World War – the George Cross continues to appear on Malta’s national flag.

For a more in-depth look at Birkirkara as a club and some of their key players, please see last week’s match preview. The match is available to watch on UK sports channel Premier Sports (Sky channel 428) – a two-month subscription on this platform will cost £9.99 with the promotional code WESTHAMFC. Premier Sports is also available on Virgin channel 551 and on the Premier Player online.

Referee

Thursday’s officials are from Albania, with the referee being 30-year-old Enea Jorgji; he was the man in the middle for Polish club Slask Wroclaw’s 1-0 Europa League qualifying first round first leg victory over NK Celje of Slovenia three weeks ago. Jorgji booked three players in that game.

Possible line-ups

Birkirkara could line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation; captain Paul Fenech and star player Fabrizio Miccoli are both injury doubts.

Slaven Bilic could name a strong team to ensure the Hammers capitalise on a 1-0 first leg lead which, though slender, should prove sufficient. Diego Poyet, Martin Samuelsen and Elliot Lee could all come into the side.

Possible Birkirkara XI: Haber; Zach Muscat, Mazzetti, Vukanac, Zerafa; Zammit; Rowen Muscat, Miccoli, Camenzuli, Murga; Liliu.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; O’Brien, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Noble, Poyet; Amalfitano, Zarate, Samuelsen; Lee.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!


Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Birkirkara

The Club

Birkirkara, also known as B’kara, were founded in 1950 following the amalgamation of Birkirkara United and Birkirkara Celtic. They are the current holders of the FA Trophy, Malta’s premier cup competition, having previously won it in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2008. ‘The Stripes’ won their first Maltese Premier League championship in the 1999/2000 season and have also been league winners in 2006, 2010 and 2013. They finished 3rd last season.

The club’s home kit consists of yellow and red striped shirts, red shorts and socks, while their away kit is all blue. They are sponsored by McDonalds. Their chairman, Dr Adrian Delia, is a 45-year-old lawyer who has been a supporter of the club since his teenage years. Head coach Giovanni Tedesco is a 43-year-old who joined Birkirkara this year after a year managing fellow Maltese club Floriana. Tedesco had previously had a short spell in charge of his hometown club Palermo (West Ham United’s previous opponents on the European stage before this season) before being moved to their Under-17 side. He has also had a spell coaching Foligno in the lower divisions of Italian football in 2012. Tedesco, a midfielder of diminutive stature standing at 5’7, spent his playing career with Reggina (1990-93), Fiorentina (1993-95), Foggia (1995-97), Salernitana (1997-98), Perugia (1998-2004), Genoa (2004-06) and Palermo (2006-10).

Birkirkara are regulars on the European stage, appearing in the UEFA Cup, Champions League and Europa League. This second qualifying round represents only the third time the club have got past the opening stage – they have not yet made a third round of European competition. On the previous occasions they have won through to a second phase they lost 1-0 on aggregate to Dynamo Moscow in the UEFA Cup of 2001/02 and 3-1 on aggregate to MSK Zilina in the Champions League of 2010/11.

The Players

One of Birkirkara’s most notable players is 34-year-old goalkeeper Justin Haber, who should wear number 16 and stands at 5’11. After starting his career with Floriana and a loan spell in Bulgaria with Dobrudzha Dobrich, he played 74 games for Birkirkara in his first spell with the club between 2002 and 2005. After short spells with French club Quevilly, Belgian side Virton, Maltese outfit Marsaxlokk, and Haidari of Greece, Haber joined Sheffield United in the summer of 2008. After failing to break into the team at Bramall Lane, he joined Hungarian club Ferencvaros on loan the following summer before signing permanently in January 2010. He signed for Greek club Kerkyra the following year but returned to Malta with Mosta in 2012. He rejoined Birkirkara in 2013. Haber, who has won 49 caps for Malta and is his nation’s first choice custodian, was injured for the first qualifying round second leg against Ulises after suffering a hamstring injury in the first leg but hopes to be fit to play at the Boleyn Ground.

Rowen Muscat, who will wear number 24, is also in his second spell with Birkirkara – he first played for the club from 2009 to 2014, scoring 5 goals in 114 appearances and returned this year after a brief 7-match stint in Hungary with Dunaujvaros. The 24-year-old midfielder made his international debut for Malta in 2012 and has now won 17 caps.

Fabrizio Miccoli is a 36-year-old forward who will wear number 10. Born in Italy and standing at a diminutive 5’6, Miccoli was proclaimed as ‘the new Del Piero’ after his performances for Casarano and Ternana earned him a move to Juventus in 2002. His pace and technical ability were displayed during a loan spell with Perugia before he fell out with Juve manager Fabio Capello on his return to Turin and half his registration rights were sold to Fiorentina in 2004. Despite initial interest from Aston Villa, Miccoli joined Benfica on loan where he was a success – when he returned to Italy, he signed for Palermo, with whom he stayed for six years from 2007 to 2013 and became club captain. After two years with Lecce, Miccoli joined Birkirkara last month, scoring the opener and creating another as The Stripes won their second leg 3-1 in Armenia last week. He won 10 caps for Italy between 2003 and 2004, scoring 2 goals.

Referee

Thursday’s officials are from Austria, with the referee being 35-year-old Markus Hameter; he was the man in the middle for Rabotnicki’s 2-0 Europa League qualifying first round first leg victory over Flora Tallinn two weeks ago. Hameter booked five players in that game.

Possible line-ups

Slaven Bilic will take charge of his first match at the Boleyn Ground with a line-up again consisting of a mixture of first-team and youth players expected. Adrian could start in goal while Stephen Hendrie could make his first appearance for the club at left-back. Mark Noble could return in midfield and Martin Samuelsen, who scored and impressed during Saturday’s friendly at Peterborough, could be given an opportunity from the start. With Andy Carroll and Mauro Zarate injured, Enner Valencia resting, Diafra Sakho suspended and Modibo Maiga the only other option, Elliot Lee should start up front. Neither Carl Jenkinson nor Angelo Ogbonna have been named in the squad so cannot appear in either leg of the tie. Dimitri Payet is suspended having been sent off for Marseille in his last European match – a 2-1 home defeat to Borussia Dortmund in December 2013 – but will be available for the second leg in Malta.

Birkirkara are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Justin Haber could return in goal if he recovers from a hamstring strain to replace Nigerian Ini Atkpan.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; O’Brien, Burke, Tomkins, Hendrie; Noble, Poyet; Amalfitano, Samuelsen, Jarvis; Lee.

Possible Birkirkara XI: Haber; Fenech, Mazzetti, Vukanac, Camenzuli; Rowen Muscat, Liliu; Zerafa, Miccoli, Zach Muscat; Murga.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!


Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: FC Lusitans v West Ham

The Stadium

The second leg of West Ham United’s Europa League first qualifying round against FC Lusitans will take place at the Estadi Comunal d’Andorra la Vella. The stadium can hold 1,100 spectators and West Ham have sold out their allocation of 450 tickets. The stadium has a running track, a grass pitch and is set to a stunning backdrop of the Pyrenees – the national stadium, also in Andorra la Vella, holds 3,300 spectators but has a controversial 3G pitch which Wales had to play on just last September.

Those 450 hardy Hammers who are making the trip face a case of ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ to get to the match. Andorra has neither an airport nor a railway station so the travelling Claret and Blue Army have had to fly to either Barcelona in north east Spain or Toulouse in the south of France and then drive the three hours to the Andorran capital. Alternatively, visiting West Ham fans may have taken the train from London to Paris and on to L’Hospitalet-pres-l’Andorre before taking a bus through the Pyrenees in order to cheer on the Irons.

The Principality

Andorra is a principality headed by two co-Princes – the Spanish/Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell and the President of France. It is located in the rugged eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe and its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe. The official language is Catalan, although Spanish, Portuguese and French are also commonly spoken. The entire population of Andorra could comfortably fit inside Wembley Stadium, while the inhabitants of Andorra la Vella could fit inside the Boleyn Ground without needing to open the Betway Stand.

For a more in-depth look at FC Lusitans as a club and some of their key players, please see last week’s match preview.

Referee

Thursday’s officials are from Denmark, with the referee being 34-year-old Anders Poulsen; he averaged three yellow cards per game last season.

Possible line-ups

Lusitans are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with last week’s substitutes Edu Moya, Oscar Sonejee and Alfi Conteh-Lacalle possibly coming into the starting line-up. Moya, 34, and Conteh-Lacalle, 30, are the club’s only two professional players while Sonejee, at 39 years old and with 101 caps, has made more appearances for Andorra than any other player.

Academy Director Terry Westley has handled the pre-match press conferences although Slaven Bilic could join him in the dugout for the match. The Hammers look set to play a 4-4-2 formation following last week’s 4-2-3-1 line-up. Academy graduates Josh Cullen and Elliot Lee make the step up from the bench for their first starts for the club with Cullen joining Diego Poyet in central midfield and Lee partnering last week’s two-goal hero Diafra Sakho up front. Mauro Zarate has a slight groin problem and will not be risked while James Tomkins will again captain the side.

Possible Lusitans XI: Gerardo; Acosta, Sonejee, Munoz, San Nicolas; Moya, Molina; Conteh-Lacalle, dos Reis, Aguilar; Romero.

West Ham United XI: Randolph; O’Brien, Tomkins, Burke, Page; Amalfitano, Cullen, Poyet, Jarvis; Lee, Sakho.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

UPDATE: Confirmed team for tonight: Randolph, O’Brien, Tomkins, Burke, Page, Amalfitano, Poyet, Cullen, Jarvis, Lee, Sakho.

Subs: Spiegel, S Westley, Knoyle, Oxford, Nasha, Parfitt-Williams, Brown.


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