Slaven Bilic discusses team selection ahead of Europa League qualifiers

West Ham United will start their 2014-15 Europa League campaign next month.

Newly-appointed West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic has suggested on the club’s official website that he may not play his best players in the Europa League qualifiers.

The Hammers will take on Andorran side FC Lusitans in the first qualifying round of the prestigious European competition.

The Premier League outfit, who qualified due to their Fair Play record, will play the first leg of the tie at the Boleyn Ground on July 2 before taking on Andorra seven days later for the second leg.

Bilic is looking forward to West Ham’s Europa League campaign and has hinted at the team he could field against Lusitans.

“We are hungry for European nights, especially at Upton Park, but on the other hand we must be very careful not to use the players who had a very long season last year and call them four weeks before the season and make their holidays short,” the Croatian told West Ham’s official website.

“It would be good at the start, maybe, but by the end of the season it would be totally negative. We have to get the balance and I am sure we are going to do it.”

Practical approach

West Ham will be favourites to win against Lusitans, which means that Bilic can afford to play some young and fringe players.

However, the Hammers need to be serious about the tie and have to ensure that they are mentally prepared.

As the following Opta Stats table shows, West Ham relied heavily on Adrian, Aaron Cresswell, Stewart Downing, Carl Jenkinson, Enner Valencia and Cheikhou Kouyate last season.

  PositionTeamAppearancesMins Played
Adrián GK West Ham 38 3,391
Aaron Cresswell DF West Ham 38 3,420
Stewart Downing MF West Ham 37 3,313
Carl Jenkinson DF West Ham 32 2,667
Enner Valencia FW West Ham 32 2,105
Cheikhou Kouyaté MF West Ham 31 2,662

All except Jenkinson (who has returned to his parent club Arsenal) will play important roles for the Hammers next season.

This means that Bilic will have to be careful with how he uses them, and maybe he would be reluctant to include them in the starting line-up for the first leg against Lusitans.

However, it would be best for West Ham if Bilic plays his best available players in the first leg.

If the London outfit register a comprehensive win at home, then Bilic can draft some young players into the starting line-up for the second leg.

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