All you need to know about West Ham's next Europa League opponents FC Astra


West Ham United will face Romanian opposition in the Europa League third qualifying round next week, here's everything you need to know about FC Astra.

First things first, no they are not named after a car.

The Hammers only just scraped through on penalties after drawing 1-1 on aggregate after two poor performances against Maltese minnows Birkirkara.

But Astra will undoubtedly provide West Ham's toughest test in the competition so far after they saw off Scottish Premiership side Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-0 on aggregate in the second qualifying round.

FC Astra: The full lowdown

So what do we know about the Hammers' next opponents?

The club's full name is FC Astra Giurgiu reflecting where they are based, in Giurgiu, and they were founded in 1921.

They finished fourth in Romania's Liga 1 last season and are nicknamed the Dracii Negrii (Black Devils).

Astra play in white and black and their home ground, the Stadionul Marin Anastasovici, holds 8,500 fans.

The Black Devils' boss Marius Șumudica is a former journeyman footballer who has continued his nomadic tendencies into management having taken charge of no fewer than 16 clubs in nine years.

The Romanian version of MK Dons?

The Romanian side have something in common with Wimbledon and MK Dons in England as they used to be known as Astra Ploiesti until September 2012 when they were moved from Ploiesti to Giurgiu by owner Ioan Niculae.

While Premier League West Ham will be hot favourites, Astra actually have far more European experience than their English counterparts having played in the Europa League for the last three seasons.

They famously beat French giants Lyon to qualify for last season's group stages on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw. They were drawn in a group with Celtic, Dinamo Zagreb and Red Bull Salzburg.

Astra finished bottom of the group but not without a fight, holding Celtic to a 1-1 draw in Giurgiu and beating Croatian side Zagreb to claim their first ever group stage win.

Their squad is, as you would expect, mostly made up of Romanian players. But they also have three Brazilians, four Portuguese players and a Japanese midfielder.

The Astra player probably best known to English fans will be 34-year-old French-born Portuguese attacking midfielder Filipe Teixeira, who has played for both West Bromwich Albion and Barnsley as well as Paris St Germain.

For West Ham fans thinking of making the 3,000 mile round trip to the away leg on August 6th, the average price of domestic beer is 5 leu, which is less than £1, while an imported beer will set you back 7 leu, just over £1.10.

A triple room in a Giurgiu hotel room will cost as little as £20.

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