Bilic confident of progress

Date published: Thursday 23rd July 2015 11:16

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James Tomkins’ 90th-minute strike in the first leg at Upton Park is the only difference between the two sides, as the Premier League outfit struggled to break down their Maltese opposition.

While wary of their precarious situation and the danger posed by Birkirkara compared to Andorran side Lusitans – who they played in the first round – Bilic is still confident his side will progress on Thursday night.

“Well the score was not ideal, to be fair, and we were hoping to have one more goal,” he told reporters in a press conference.

“Before that game I didn’t dream it would be like the Andorra kind of a game.

“I played a few times against Maltese teams and against the national team, and Croatia drew 1-1 once here when I was (playing for the) Under-21s.

“We are still the favourite and are better than them, but the gap is closing.

“We are better than them of course, and to get a better result than 1-0 we should have scored earlier which I think we deserved, but at the end, we have a positive result.

“I am sure that it should be enough especially if we score a goal here, which we will try to do, and our team is capable of.”

Midfielder Mark Noble believes the heat will be a challenge for the visitors – and while they have been training in the Ta’Qali National Stadium to get used to the climate, Bilic agrees it will be tough going for his players.

 “The heat is a problem, you cannot get used to this heat, no matter how much you read in the papers, until the moment you land,” he said.

“I spoke to my family and kids in Croatia and there it’s the same. They tell me ‘Dad, it’s going to be 37-38 degrees’, but when we came it is like a sauna.

“That will be a problem for us, but we are experienced enough and we are good enough that, with the greatest respect to the Maltese team, at least 70 per cent we are going to be the ones who dictate the tempo of the game, and we should be capable of keeping the ball and not go crazy in terms of running.

“However, the heat is their advantage, because they live in those weather conditions and we don’t.”

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