Birkirkara v West Ham: Irons to progress but don’t expect fireworks

In taking 90 minutes to finally break through a stubborn Birkirkara defence may have given West Ham supporters a fright last week, but it’s not all bad.

The Hammers are 4/11 favourites for victory in the return leg in Malta, a price that is perhaps bigger than in it would have been had Slaven Bilic’s men disposed of their opponents more convincingly.

A spot in the Europa League third qualifying round is the ultimate aim, and while the east London side need to simply avoid defeat in the Mediterranean, a win is all that is on their mind.

Speaking to Irons fan site midfielder Diego Poyet highlighted their intentions:

“We will not be playing for a draw, we’ll be looking to win the game with another solid performance and then see who we get in the next round,” he said.

“Some of the boys have played in Europe before, some haven’t, so everyone’s fighting for their place”.

That battle for starting positions could see the English side go gung ho at the Infetti Ground, but while their quality should inevitably shine through, their Maltese foes aren’t ones to roll over on their own patch.

Just once in Birkirkara’s last 59 games at home have they conceded three or more goals, so those banking on the Hammers making amends for missed opportunities with a thrashing could have their fingers burned.

Conversely though The Stripes are not ones to chip in with their fare share of goals, at least when it comes to Europe.

Of their 19 ultimately disappointing European qualification campaigns they have found the net in front of their own fans just six times.

The quality of the West Ham defence, who have yet to concede in their three Europa League matches so far should have more than enough to see out another clean sheet.

And the likes of Diafra Sakho and Dimitri Payet will be unavailable once again for the Hammers through suspension, their front line should be able to see them over the line.

But with their opponents already showing they are a stubborn bunch at the back, a replica of United’s 1-0 victory in Andorra could be backable at 11/2, while a 2-0 scoreline in favour of Bilic’s men is equally attractive at 5/1.

For those more interested in a price boost though, Ladbrokes’ latest offering is an enhancement on the price on West Ham to win and both teams to score, boosted from 2/1 to 11/4 from 8am on Thursday.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.