West Ham United head to Romania looking to keep their hopes of progressing to the group stage of the UEFA Europa League alive.
Their task is trickier than it appeared an hour into the first leg against Astra Giurgiu last Thursday, when goals from Enner Valencia and Mauro Zarate fired them into a 2-0 lead.
However, James Collins’ red card for two bookings triggered an Astra comeback and left the game well and truly in the balance.
The Hammers now need to win this second leg – or secure a score draw with a bigger scoreline than 2-2 – to book their spot in the competition’s Play-Off round.
Astra have played a league game in the week since the first meeting at the Boleyn Ground, twice throwing away a lead to draw 2-2 against Viitorul. Marius Sumudica’s team currently sit sixth in their league table, with five points from their opening four games.
A second away win from three European ties this summer is required for Slaven Bilic’s side on Thursday as they look to continue their European adventure.
The Hammers have twice faced Romanian opposition in UEFA competition before and will need to pick up their first positive result in the country, having lost to Poli Timisoara and Steaua Bucharest in the past.
However, Astra are yet to win at home this season, drawing 0-0 with Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Viitorul and losing heavily to Targu Mures so far this term.
In Europe, they reached the group stage of this competition last season, seeing off Slovan Liberec and Olympique Lyonnais en route to Group D.
West Ham United
The opening Barclays Premier League game of the season follows just three days after Thursday’s game when West Ham go to Arsenal and the manager already has a number of players unavailable for Astra.
James Tomkins serves the second game of a two-game ban for his red card against Birkirkara, while James Collins is banned after being sent off in the first leg of this tie. Joey O’Brien is also suspended after accumulating three yellow cards in the Hammers’ qualifying campaign.
Enner Valencia (knee and ankle) was injured in the first leg, while Andy Carroll, Winston Reid and Pedro Obiang have also been working their way back from injuries.
Carl Jenkinson and Manuel Lanzini could, however, be in line for their first European assignments of the summer.
Astra coach Marius Sumudica selected the same eleven that drew with the Hammers at the Boleyn Ground last week for his team’s return to domestic action on Sunday.
A similar line-up would not be unexpected on Thursday, so expect the likes of former West Brom man Filipe Teixeira, Brazilian midfielder William de Amorim and Japanese midfielder Takayuki Seto to feature.
- The game will be played at Astra’s Stadionul Marin Anastasovici, which has an 8,500-capacity and is located in the southern Romanian city of Giurgiu.
- West Ham will be playing their 48th game in European competition. They have won 24 of the previous 47, losing 15 of those ties.
- Astra are in their third ever European campaign and have enjoyed considerable success in the previous two, winning three qualifying ties in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League before bowing out at the Play-Off round stage to Maccabi Haifa, then winning through to the group stages last season.
- Astra were moved from Ploiesti to their current base in Giurgiu three years ago and have subsequently finished fourth, second and fourth in the Liga I table.
Tickets, weather, coverage and travel info
- Tickets are no longer available for this fixture
- The weather in Giurgiu is set to be hot and sunny. Temperatures are set to peak at 34C on matchday, dropping to 30C by kick-off at 9pm local time.
- For fans in Romania, the Hotel Riviera in Giurgiu will be for the exclusive use of Hammers fans from 3pm local time, with food and drinks on offer.
- The match is being covered by BT Sport in the UK. whufc.com will carry live text updates, photos and stats, while you can get involved with the conversation on our social channels and West Ham Live using the #ASTWHU hashtag.
- Click here for travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.