Bilic wants a strong start

Slaven Bilic is hoping the Club's European adventure can give them a major advantage when they start the Premier League campaign in August.

The Hammers continue their Europa League journey when they face Maltese side Birkirkara in the second qualifying round at the Boleyn Ground on Thursday night.

Bilic is no stranger to European football and knows the advantages it can bring to a team when they are preparing to start a new season.

The West Ham United manager still has fond memories of how his Besiktas side almost caused a major upset against Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier last summer as they had played a number of competitive games heading into the fixture.

Despite the number of games that the Club could face in the next few weeks, Bilic is hopeful it will work in their favour and give them a head-start as they prepare for the big kick-off with a London derby against Arsenal on August 9.

Bilic said: “It’s good for the start, definitely. The best examples are from your own history, not from the books.

“I only have to look at last year when we played Arsenal in the Champions League play-off. We were fitter than them.

“We had already played Feyenoord in the previous round and we were fitter. Arsenal had only played the Community Shield and Crystal Palace and we were already in the season. It gives you a definite advantage in the beginning of the season.

“What about November, December or Christmas time which is already so tough here. We are going to be aware of all the situations.”

Bilic has already received a warm reception from the West Ham United supporters following his appointment as the Club's new manager and would love to become a hero with the fans like he achieved at Besiktas last season.

The Croatian coach received a pop star's farewell when he was lifted into the air by supporters at the airport when he left Turkey earlier this summer and hopes he can achieve even more success in east London.

Bilic added: “You have seen Robin van Persie's welcome and it's amazing. It's not very common here!

“In Turkey they say it doesn't matter how many people are there when you are coming to the club, what matters is how you leave and if you can leave feeling proud of what you have achieved.

“I'm glad that I left Besiktas in a good situation and a good atmosphere. I can only wish that I can have the same kind of daily basis of work that I had in Turkey.”

Bilic is set to name a stronger team for the game against Birkirkara on Thursday night and says this is where the pre-season really gets going for his team.

“It will be a different team. The first round was great for the young players to show themselves, especially at Upton Park, a full stadium. It was a great for them, a night to remember and I’m sure they’re going to remember it.

“This game is different and a different build-up. They beat a team from Armenia quite easily (in the first round) and I know many of their players who play in the Russian league. They are good team.

“We are expecting a tough game, we are clear favourites but we cannot afford any surprises.”

There's still time to secure your ticket for Thursday night's game against Birkirkara.

Tickets purchased on matchday are priced at just £20 for Adults and £10 Under-16s and offer an unmissable opportunity to watch several first team stars in European action at the Boleyn Ground.