Hammers in chase for Malbranque

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The Independent Football

West Ham United are hoping to have Steed Malbranque on board for their Uefa Cup campaign. The Hammers are back in mainstream European competition for the first time in six years, drawing the Italian side Palermo in the first round of the tournament yesterday.

The Fulham midfielder Malbranque is a target of the West Ham manager Alan Pardew and the hope is he will be recruited before the transfer window closes next Thursday. The Hammers' managing director Paul Aldridge said: "We would like to bring in one, possibly two more faces, and we will work hard between now and the end of the month to do that. Malbranque is obviously one of the people Alan has targeted, and I would hope we will soon have positive discussions with Fulham."

Following the draw at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, Aldridge believes these are exciting times for the Hammers, even though the Uefa Cup is very much the poor relation to the Champions' League.

"We're excited, shown by the fact we have already sold 16,000 tickets for the first game, and that was before today and knowing who we would be playing," Aldridge added. "So there's a great appetite for Uefa Cup football, that's for sure."

The two-time Uefa Cup winners Tottenham Hotspur face a tough task on their return to Europe as they face the Czech side Slavia Prague, but despite links to Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing, the club's sporting director Damien Comolli believes Spurs are confident in the strength of their squad.

"The players we have bought this summer have experience of European competition, and we think we're better this season than last season," Comolli said. "But you also need quality, luck and to stay injury-free to go far."

Newcastle face another trip to the Baltic region to take on Levadia Tallinn, while Mark Hughes' Blackburn Rovers must dispose of FC Salzburg if they are to reach the group stages.

Rangers' first European game under Paul Le Guen will be against Norwegian team Molde, while Hearts' consolation for missing out on the Champions' League is a meeting with Slavia Prague's city rivals Sparta.

Uefa Cup first-round draw

Hearts v Sparta Prague (Cz Rep)

Eintracht Frankfurt (Ger) v Brondby (Den)

Lokomotiv Sofia (Bul) v Feyenoord (Neth)

Chernomorets (Ukr) v Hapoel Tel Aviv (Isr)

SC Braga (Por) v Chievo Verona (It)

Levadia Tallinn (Est) v Newcastle Utd

Molde (Nor) v Rangers

Standard Liège (Bel) v Celta Vigo (Sp)

Maccabi Haifa (Isr) v Litex Lovech (Bul)

Derry City v Paris St-Germain (Fr)

Hertha Berlin (Ger) v Odense (Den)

Legia Warsaw (Pol) v Austria Vienna (Aut)

Panathinaikos (Gr) v Metalurg Zaporizhya (Ukr)

Lokomotiv Moscow (Rus) v Waregem (Bel)

Fenerbahce (Tur) v Randers (Den)

Salzburg (Aut) v Blackburn Rovers

Schalke 04 (Ger) v Nancy (Fr)

Ethnikos Achnas (Cyp) v Lens (Fr)

Slovan Liberec (Cz Rep) v Red Star Belgrade (Serb)

AZ Alkmaar (Neth) v Kayserispor (Tur)

Rubin Kazan (Rus) v Parma (It)

Atromitos (Gr) v Seville (Sp)

Besiktas (Tur) v CSKA Sofia (Bul)

Vitoria Setubal (Por) v SC Heerenveen (Neth)

Marseilles (Fr) v Mlada Boleslav (Cz Rep)

Atvidabergs (Swe) v Grasshopper-Club Zürich (Swit)

Rapid Bucharest (Rom) v Nacional (Por)

Trabzonspor (Tur) v Osasuna (Sp)

Basle (Swit) v Rabotnicki (Maced)

West Ham Utd v Palermo (It)

Ruzomberok (Slovak) v Club Bruges (Bel)

Sion (Swit) v Bayer Leverkusen (Ger)

Partizan Belgrade (Serb) v Groningen (Neth)

Xanthi (Gr) v Dinamo Bucharest (Rom)

Slavia Prague (Cz Rep) v Tottenham Hotspur

IK Start (Nor) v Ajax (Neth)

Artmedia Bratislava (Slovak) v Espanyol (Sp)

Wisla Krakow (Pol) v Iraklis (Gr)

Livorno (It) v Pasching (Aut)

Dynamo Zagreb (Croa) v AJ Auxerre (Fr)

First legs: 14 September

Second legs: 28 September

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