Early European test for Liverpool and Roy Hodgson

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The Independent Football

Roy Hodgson will launch his Liverpool career at Anfield after being handed an early home game in Europa League qualifying.

The Reds were this afternoon drawn against the Rabotnicki of Macedonia or Armenian side FC Mika in the third qualifying round of UEFA's second-tier competition.



The first leg of the tie will take place on Merseyside on July 29 with the return taking place the following week.



Their opponents will be confirmed after the conclusion of the second qualifying round next week, but Rabotnicki hold the upper hand after winning the first leg of their tie 1-0 last night.



Elsewhere in the draw, Hibernian were drawn away against Videoton of Hungary or Slovenia's NK Maribor, who drew 1-1 in their first leg.



The other Scottish side to feature, Motherwell, will face Norwegian outfit Aalesund if they can get past Icelandic league leaders Breidablik.



Craig Brown's men claimed the advantage in their tie with a 1-0 win last night.



Irish outfit Shamrock Rovers were handed a potential dream tie against Italian giants Juventus if they can see off Bnei Yehuda of Tel Aviv.



Rovers will travel to Israel with spirits high after securing a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their second-round qualifier with a late equaliser last night.



Welsh side Bangor City, who drew 1-1 with Honka Espoo, will face Maritimo or Sporting Fingal if they can overcome the Finns.



Cliftonville, leading 1-0 against Cibalia, will face CSKA Sofia if they get through and Portadown will tackle Siquliai or Wisla Krakov if they overturn a 2-1 deficit against Qarabag.



Hodgson will be without star striker Fernando Torres for both legs of Liverpool's tie due to injury but the 62-year-old has plenty of recent experience of the competition.



He entered at the same stage with Fulham last season and oversaw a remarkable run which saw them reach the final.



There they were beaten by Atletico Madrid, who knocked out Liverpool in the semi-finals.



Hodgson's success with Fulham in Europe did much to earn him the Anfield position when Rafael Benitez left the club over the summer.



Playing at such an early stage of Europa League represents a considerable comedown for Liverpool after six successive years of Champions League qualification.



And even if they come through the third qualifying round they must still negotiate a play-off to reach the group stages, which begin in September.



It is at that the play-off stage the likes of Aston Villa, Manchester City and Dundee United enter the competition along with teams beaten in Champions League qualifiers.



The first leg of the play-offs is on August 19, four days after Liverpool open their Barclays Premier League programme against Arsenal.

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