West Ham fans are special, says Slaven Bilic

The Croatian has been quick to settle into his new surroundings after arriving in June.

Manager Slaven Bilic has heaped praise on the West Ham faithful ahead of their Champions League qualifier second leg against FC Lusitans tonight, according to the club's official website.

Around 500 Hammers fans are expected to travel to Andorra as Bilic’s men look to progress to the second qualifying round following a three-nil victory in the first leg at the Boleyn last week.

"West Ham fans are special, of course," said Bilic on the club’s official site.

"I’m an ex-West Ham player and manager now, but it’s not just me - many players who have nothing to do with West Ham say it’s a special club with special fans."

The Croatian also touched on the importance of the fans' loyal support in inspiring the team on the pitch.

He said: "It’s a big privilege for us to have that kind of support. They are coming to the game today and it’s great because we need their support."

West Ham will be confident of reaching the next qualifying stage and have handed academy starlet Josh Cullen his first senior start.

Golden opportunity or a poisoned chalice?

Much has been made of the detrimental effect a European campaign can have on a team’s league form, with plenty of evidence to suggest a negative correlation.

Yet, there’s something romantic about the return of European football in the final year at the Boleyn and there’s the sense that the club may be willing to accept a dip in league form for a thrilling cup run.

The Irons began their European adventure last week and - assuming they get past the Andorran minnows tonight - will have to face two more qualifying rounds and a play-off before reaching the group stages.

The games are bound to have an effect on the team as the season wears on but it might just be worth it for that little bit of West Ham magic under the Boleyn floodlights.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch