West Ham return to training early as they prepare for Europa League qualifiers

The tie will be Slaven Bilic's first games in charge after succeeding Sam Allardyce at the club

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The Independent Football

West Ham United will return to pre-season training earlier than every other Premier League side on Monday as they prepare to discover their opponents for next week’s Europa League first qualifying round.

The London side qualified for the competition through last season’s Fair Play Table and are seeded in the lunchtime draw for what will be Slaven Bilic’s first game in charge after succeeding Sam Allardyce for the club’s final season at Upton Park.

The opening leg of the Hammers’ first European campaign in nine years will take place on 2 July, with the return taking place seven days later. Their seeding will keep them from being drawn with Bilic’s former side Hadjuk Split, as well as Rosenborg, Dinamo Tbilsi and Red Star Belgrade. Potential opponents for West Ham include Cukaricki Belgrade, Odds BK, College Europa, of Gibraltar, Irish side Cork City, Welsh outfits Newtown, Bala Town and Airbus UK Broughton, along with FC Lahti.

The longest potential trip for Hammers fans would be to Kairat, based almost 3,500 miles away in Kazakhstan, with compatriots Ordabasy marginally closer to east London. The club’s last European campaign lasted just two matches, losing 4-0 on aggregate to Italian side Palermo in September 2006 in the first round of what was then the Uefa Cup. Their last victory on the continent came in September 1999, a 3-1 Uefa Cup win away to Croatian side Osijek – goals coming from Paul Kitson, Neil Ruddock and Marc-Vivien Foe.

Scottish Premiership sides Aberdeen and St Johnstone are also included in the draw, during which the pairings for the second qualifying rounds, to be played later next month, will also be determined. Southampton enter the competition at the third qualifying stage at the end of July, while Liverpool and Tottenham both go straight into August’s draw for the group stages, which run from September to December. This season’s final takes place in Basel, Switzerland, next May. The holders are Seville, who last month beat Dnipro for a fourth title in the last decade.

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