West Ham reached the semi-finals of the Europa League last season and assistant manager Billy McKinlay says they are targeting another extended run on the continent this term.
The Hammers will get their Europa Conference League campaign underway on Thursday when they welcome Danish side Viborg to the London Stadium for the first leg of their play-off round tie (West Ham 1/7, Draw 11/2, Viborg 14/1 – Match Result).
This will be West Ham’s first European match since they were dumped out of last season’s Europa League at the final-four stage by eventual champions Eintracht Frankfurt and they will head into the contest without Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice and manager David Moyes, who are all suspended.
New signing Thilo Kehrer is available to make his debut after joining from Paris Saint-Germain this week and the German international’s arrival is timely, as fellow defenders Nayef Aguerd and Angelo Ogbonna remain sidelined, while Craig Dawson is a fitness doubt.
The east Londoners will expect to secure a positive result to take into next week’s return leg in Denmark, but McKinlay, who will take charge of the team in Moyes’ absence, is already looking further down the line.
“We’re hungry and expecting to do well and go far in competitions,” McKinlay told reporters. “We’re always under pressure – we’re a big club with big support.”
West Ham are not the only British team in Europa Conference League action on Thursday, as Linfield will be looking to become the first Northern Irish club to make it through to the group stage of a European competition.
David Healy’s team are away in Latvia to take on RFS in the first leg of their play-off round tie (RFS 3/5, Draw 5/2, Linfield 9/2 – Match Result).
There is also British and Irish interest in the final round of Europa League qualifying where Hearts will be aiming to reach the group stage for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
Robbie Neilson’s side face a tough battle if they are to advance, as they head to Switzerland to face FC Zurich in the first leg of their play-off round tie (FC Zurich 4/5, Draw 5/2, Hearts 11/4 – Match Result).
Irish champions Shamrock Rovers are also bidding to reach the group stage of the Europa League and they will visit Ferencvaros for the first leg of their tie in Hungary (Ferencvaros 4/11, Draw 10/3, Shamrock Rovers 6/1 – Match Result).