Slaven Bilic explains reasoning behind West Ham’s weak Europa League squad

West Ham boss Bilic has selected a weak first-team squad for the Europa League game with Astra Giurgiu.

The Hammers travelled to Romania yesterday to face Astra this evening, and Bilic has told the Daily Mail why he selected a squad of reserve players for the tough game.

He said: “It’s a different squad front he the first game, but that was always the plan. We were always going to play the first leg with the best team. But it was always part of our plan, because of the start of the Premier League on Sunday - which is the priority - that we would come here with a strong team - but we a team where some players have stayed at home.”

It is the close start of the Premier League that has Bilic selecting a weakened squad for the European game, despite the fact that the Hammers need to win - or draw by three goals or more - to progress.

They fielded a strong team in the first leg at home - as Bilic has said was always the plan - but threw away a two-goal led to only managed a 2-2 draw, and they always wanted to take a weaker team to Romania this week.

Carl Jenkinson, Manuel Lanzini and Kevin Nolan are the only recognised first-team players selected - despite Lanzini having yet to make his debut for the club - and Jenkinson is only going to play as he is ineligible against parent-club Arsenal this weekend.

If the Hammer progress tonight, Bilic will be praised for securing victory whilst keeping a fit side for the start of the Premier League. However, a loss will see the East London club out of Europe, and will have the coach come under pressure for his unwillingness to secure passage in Europe.

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