West Ham are set for European football once again this season. This time they will be playing in the Europa Conference League instead of the Europa League.
Many fans may overlook some of the opposition in the competition, but it may not be as easy as some think. For example, West Ham’s London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur failed to reach the knockout phase of the competition last year.
The group stage draw took place in Istanbul yesterday afternoon, and West Ham found out the 3 teams who they will be competing against for a spot in the knockout phase of the competition.
The first team that was drawn into Group B alongside the Hammers is Romanian side FCSB. The Red and Blues finished 2nd in Romania's top flight last season, meaning that they had booked their place in the qualifiers for the Conference League.
The Romanian side have had to play 3 rounds of qualifiers to reach the group stages. In their first tie, they won 4-3 on aggregate against Saburtalo from Georgia. They then faced Slovakia's Dunajska Streda before finishing their qualifying campaign against Norwegian team Viking.
Some of you may have heard of FCSB, as they are former European Cup winners, back in the 1985/86 season. They also finished as runners up in the competition 3 seasons later.
Joining West Ham and FCSB in Group B is Belgian giants, Anderlecht. Although they may not be enjoying as much success as they used to, they can still provide a challenge within the group, and will most likely be West Ham’s biggest challenger for top spot.
Despite being the most successful team in Belgium's football league with a record 34 league titles, they have failed to win the league since the 2016/17 season. On top of this, they haven’t won either of Belgium's cup competitions in almost 15 years.
Anderlecht also have a history of winning in Europe, as they were crowned UEFA Cup winners in 1982/83, defeating Benfica 2-1 over 2 legs in the final. They have also won the European Cup Winners’ Cup on 2 occasions, beating West Ham 4-2 in the 1976 final.
The Belgian side easily defeated Estonia's Paide in the third qualifying round, before they scraped past Young Boys on penalties in their playoff last night.
The final team that was drawn alongside West Ham is Silkeborg from Denmark. Silkeborg finished 3rd in the league last season, meaning they had qualified for the Europa League playoff. They lost the Europa League playoff against HJK Helsinki 2-1 over 2 legs, meaning that they dropped into the Conference League group stages.
This is the first time Silkeborg have reached the group stages of a European competition since the Intertoto Cup in 1997, but they were eliminated at this stage, despite winning the competition a year prior.
Silkeborg will be the second Danish side they face in the Conference League this season, as they’ve just defeated Viborg in the playoff round.
At the time of writing this, West Ham are yet to find out the order that they will face each side, but the dates of each game are the 8th and 15th of September, the 6th, 13th and 27th of October and the 3rd of November.