Preview: Astra Giurgiu v West Ham

Slaven Bilic has reiterated his desire to reach the Europa League group stages ahead of West Ham's play-off round first leg clash against Astra Giurgiu at Stadionul Marin on Thursday.

The Hammers have already seen off Slovenian side NK Domzale 4-2 over two legs, and are now just two more games from participation in the tournament proper.

Despite ever increasing competition in the Premier League, Bilic is insistent that his side are taking this tournament very seriously.

He told the club's official website: "We will definitely be picking the strongest team we can, because that's why we came here.

"I said openly before the Domzale game and at the start of the pre-season that we want to get into the Europa League group stage. This is the play-off round and it's very important to win for West Ham United.

"We have got a chance. We are two games away from the group stage and the club, the fans and the players, individually and as a team, and the staff want to participate in it."

Interestingly it was Astra who ended West Ham's European adventure in the third qualification round last season.

In team news, West Ham will be without Aaron Cresswell and Manuel Lanzini (both knee), while Andre Ayew is a long-term absentee with a thigh injury.

Dimitri Payet and Havard Nordtveit were left out of the travelling party as Bilic's keeps one eye on Saturday's home clash with Bournemouth while Arthur Masuaku is unavailable for selection as he is cup-tied having played for Olympiacos in Champions League qualifiers.

New signing Jonathan Calleri could be in line for a start as Darren Randolph gets the nod ahead of Adrian in goal.

Bilic added: "I know the Romanian league, being from Croatia, and I know how good Romanian teams can be. OK, maybe they sold a few players, but I'm expecting a tough game."

Astra, meanwhile, will be without two key players from last season, William de Amorim and Fernando Boldrin, who have both departed the club, along with suspended coach Marius Sumudica.

But Viorel Nicoara could be in contention to make his debut for his new side, after signing this week, alongside Denis Alibec.

Astra coach Cristian Petre told the club's official website: "We meet a formidable opponent who achieved very good results in the Premier League last championship.

"We respect them, but we are not afraid, our team morale is good, a result which we hope to provide opportunities for the return game.

"Alibec will also be on the bench, very likely. Giurgiu expect the world to be with us."

The return leg will take place next Thursday, the 25th of August 2016, at the London Stadium.

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