Slaven Speaks - NK Domzale

  • Manager confirms strong team will take on Slovenian side
  • Hammers keen to hit the ground running in UEFA Europa League
  • Bilic sure Hammers are well-prepared for European competition
West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic is sure his team can make an impact in European competition this season, ahead of Thursday’s UEFA Europa League opener against NK Domzale.

The Hammers take on the Slovenian side in the third qualifying round, with four games standing between Bilic’s men and the group stages.
After a month-long training block in the lead-up to the game, Bilic is pleased with his team’s progress and is looking forward to the test that awaits on the pitch.
Slaven, can we start with team news for the game please?
SB: “We have been in pre-season for four or five weeks now and it has gone well. The lads have trained really hard and in a quality way so we’re happy with that. The new players are also starting to gel with the team, and with the group that we have – and with Mark as the leader – it’s easy to gel.
“We have two blows in terms of injuries, with Manuel Lanzini and with Cress in the last game. It’s a big blow for us, of course, but hopefully they are going to be back soon. We still have to wait for Manuel, when he comes back from the States where he was with the Argentina Olympic team, to see how bad it is.
“We are still waiting for a few players who were at the Euros until basically the end too, so we’ve been training with 70 or 80 per cent of the squad that we are expecting to have in the Premier League.
“We have played a few games, some have been really good, and we are looking forward to tomorrow. We are ready, and we are going to come out with the best possible team.  All the guys are fit, apart from the ones that I mentioned.
“Reece Oxford joined us from the Euro U19 Championships, he’s fit also and we’re looking forward to Thursday night’s game.”
What are you expecting from the opposition on Thursday?
SB: “The opposition is good. I’ve seen a couple of games they have played against Shakhtyor Soligorsk and they are very organised. They are a very brave team when they have the ball in the opposition half, they are trying to play very open football, a modern type of football, with a lot of pressing, good ball possession and running behind the defence without the ball.
“On that level they impressed me, so we are expecting a really tough game on Thursday.”
We are ready, and we are going to come out with the best possible team
Of the new signings, are they likely to start on Thursday and what impression have they made?
SB: “They have made a really good impression and some of them will start, definitely. If you are talking about Feghouli, if you are talking about Nordtveit, they started when we started because they didn’t have international football this summer. They are really quality players and they are what we expected from them.
“Of course they are going to get better and better, but already it is obvious that they are going to improve our squad and make a huge impact on the quality of our game, as well as Tore, who came a little bit after.
“He is also ready and fit and, as I said, we didn’t buy just for the sake of buying and just to make our squad bigger. We wanted to buy quality players and I’m sure that we’ve got them.”
Last year you came into this competition at the very start. This year you’re a couple of rounds in, so will that make a difference?
SB: “It will probably. It’s not that last year we didn’t want to qualify, we wanted to. We didn’t want to compromise the Premier League and compromise the preparation that we were in.
“We started in a funny way, very early with one team still on holiday and the other team training in Ireland. We went to Andorra [for the first qualifying round] and the second group went to Ireland. This year the opportunity was there to start at the time we wanted to start anyway, with or without the qualification games.
“We’ve had one, and only one, group and we have been together for a year. They know what I am expecting from them, me and my staff know the squad much better and we really want to qualify.”