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The Europa Conference League - Football: The draw verdict

Hearts have been handed a glamour draw in the Europa Conference League group stage, as they will face Italian giants Fiorentina.

Robbie Neilson's side are outsiders to go on and win the competition, but supporters will already be marking their trip to the Stadio Artemio Franchi into the calendar.

Turkish outfit Istanbul Basaksehir and Latvian champions RFS make up the rest of Group A, while English representatives West Ham have been handed a tough looking draw in Group B alongside FCSB, Anderlecht and Silkeborg.

What:UEFA Europa Conference League 2022/23
Where:Various, final at Fortuna Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
When:Thursday 8th September 2022 to Wednesday 7th June 2023
How to watch:BT Sport

Glamour draw for Hearts

Hearts may have been beaten by FC Zurich in the final round of Europa League qualifying, but they have dropped into the Conference League and will compete in the group stage of a continental competition for the first time in 18 years.

The Jambos were no doubt hoping for a glamour tie and they have got that in the shape of former European Cup finalists Fiorentina.

I Viola will be only the third Italian side Hearts have faced in their history, with the Edinburgh outfit having previously come up against Bologna and Inter Milan in the UEFA Cup and Fairs Cup, respectively.

In what looks a difficult section to qualify from, Hearts will also face Istanbul Basaksehir, who boast recent Champions League experience, as well as RFS, who beat Northern Irish outfit Linfield in the final round of qualifying via a penalty shootout.

Hammers could have had it easier

West Ham made it all the way through to the Europa League semi-finals last season and after seeing off Viborg in the final round of qualifying, David Moyes' side will fancy their chances of enjoying another extended run in continental competition.

However, the draw could arguably have been kinder to the Hammers, who were among the top seeds, as they will face former European champions FCSB and continental regulars Anderlecht in Group B.

Following a difficult start to the season domestically - they have lost all three of their Premier League fixtures to date without scoring - this could prove a difficult section for Moyes and his team to navigate.

The fourth team in the group are Danish outfit Silkeborg, who the Hammers should have no problem seeing off given the way they dispatched Viborg in qualifying.

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Europa Conference League - Football: All you need to know

Shamrock flying the Irish flag

Shamrock Rovers made history when they became the first Irish team to reach the group stage of a European competition after qualifying for the Europa League during the 2011/12 season.

Fast forward a little over a decade later and Stephen Bradley's side are back in the big time, albeit they have rather limped their way through after losing in both Champions League and Europa League qualifying.

Despite exiting those two competitions, Rovers have won all three of their home matches in Europe this season and if they can replicate that during the group stage, they may well harbour hopes of advancing even further.

The draw certainly holds nothing to fear for the Dublin outfit, as they have been pitted against Belgian outfit Gent, Molde of Norway and Swedish club Djurgardens.

While all three of those teams will expect to beat Rovers, the Irish champions proved with their recent victory over Hungarian giants Ferencvaros that they can more than hold their own against clubs of a similar standing.

No stresses expected for Villarreal

Villarreal have the most recent European pedigree of any side in this season's Conference League, with Unai Emery's side having followed up winning the Europa League in 2021 with a run to the semi-finals of last season's Champions League.

The Yellow Submarine will fancy their chances of adding another European title this year and they should have no problem coming through Group C where they will face Hapoel Be'er Sheva of Israel, Austrian outfit Austria Wien and the champions of Poland Lech Poznan.

Nice headline Group D, with the French club boasting former Arsenal star Aaron Ramsey and Leicester's Premier League-winning goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel in their ranks. They will face Cologne, Partizan Belgrade and Slovacko in their section.

Group E consists of AZ Alkmaar, Apollon Limassol, Vaduz and Dnipro-1, while in Group G, Slavia Prague are the standout name, the Czech giants will come up against Cluj, Sivasspor and Ballkani.

Finally in Group H, Swiss outfit Basel could be the team to beat, with Slovan Bratislava, Zalgiris and Pyunik completing the group.

Europa Conference League group stage draw in full:

Group A: Istanbul Basaksehir, Fiorentina, Hearts, RFS

Group B: West Ham, FCSB, Anderlecht, Silkeborg

Group C: Villarreal, Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Austria Wien, Lech Poznan

Group D: Partizan Belgrade, Cologne, Nice, Slovacko

Group E: AZ Alkmaar, Apollon Limassol, Vaduz, Dnipro-1

Group F: Gent, Molde, Shamrock Rovers, Djurgardens

Group G: Slavia Prague, Cluj, Sivasspor, Ballkani

Group H: Basel, Slovan Bratislava, Zalgiris, Pyunik

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