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Hodgson's Reds enter European fray

Five-time European champions Liverpool FC and Turin behemoths Juventus are the biggest scalps on offer as the 35 UEFA Europa League third qualifying round ties kick off on Thursday.

Roy Hodgson takes charge of his first competitive game as Liverpool manager on Thursday
Roy Hodgson takes charge of his first competitive game as Liverpool manager on Thursday ©Getty Images

Five-time European Champion Clubs' Cup winners Liverpool FC, twice European champions Juventus and continental competition debutants FC Sibir Novosibirsk and Jagiellonia Białystok all enter the UEFA Europa League when the third qualifying round begins this week.

The second phase concluded on Thursday with the 40 tie winners now joined by 30 new entrants as the race to reach the group stage steps up another notch. Liverpool, UEFA Champions League winners in 2005 and contenders in Europe's premier club competition for the past six seasons, begin their campaign against FK Rabotnicki in the Former Yugolsav Republic of Macedonia. It will be Roy Hodgson's first competitive game in charge of the Anfield club, coming less than three months after his Fulham FC side lost the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League final.

Another team with impressive European pedigree, Juventus, go to Dublin, where they will hope to return for the final in May, to face Shamrock Rovers FC after the Irish side beat Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC 2-1 on aggregate in the last round.

Less familiar faces on the European scene are FC Sibir Novosibirsk of Russia and Polish Cup winners Jagiellonia Białystok. Both European debutants begin on home soil, against Apollon Limassol FC and Aris Thessaloniki FC respectively.

Olympiacos FC, joint-biggest victors in the last round having beat KS Besa 11-1 on aggregate, continue their continental quest against Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC in Athens. Beşiktaş JK also progressed serenely to set up a tie against FK Viktoria Plzeň, whose only previous European campaign saw them heavily defeated by a Gerd Müller-inspired FC Bayern München in 1971.

Montpellier Hérault SC return to European competition for the first time in 11 years with a trip to Győri ETO FC of Hungary, while two-time UEFA Cup winners IFK Göteborg look to rediscover their glories of the 1980s against AZ Alkmaar in another eye-catching tie.