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British sides including West Ham and Celtic learn European qualifying opponents


Celtic and West Ham were the most high profile British clubs represented in the first qualifying rounds of the Champions and Europa League today.

Celtic, the reigning Scottish champions begin their campaign at Celtic Park on 14 or 15 July with the second leg a week later on 21 or 22 July against Stjarnan of Iceland in the Champions League first round qualifying.

The Scottish side failed to reach the group stages of the competition last season after being beaten over two legs by Maribor. To reach the competition proper, they will need to win three rounds of qualifying before then negotiating a play-off round.

Should they get that far, they will be joined in the draw by Manchester United, who qualified after finishing fourth in the Premier League last season.

Premier League champion Chelsea, Manchester City, and FA Cup winners Arsenal all qualify for the group stage draw automatically.

Other British interests in the Champions league qualifying include Welsh Premier League champions The New Saints of Oswestry , one of the seeded teams, who were drawn to face B36 Torshavn of the Faroe Island. Northern Ireland side Crusaders will face Estonian side Levadia Talinn in round one.

Irish club Dundalk face a big ask, going against BATE Borisov, the champions of Belarus.

Meanwhile, in the Europa League draw, West Ham start their final season at Upton Park by facing Andorran side FC Lusitans in the first qualifying round.

The Hammers, who move to the Olympic Stadium in 2016, qualified for the competition through the fair play rule, which allocates an extra slot to the top three nations in the fair play league. They will travel to Andorra on July 2nd, before the return leg in London a week later.

Should they make the third round of qualifying they will be joined by Southampton, with Liverpool and Tottenham already in the group draw.

Scottish side St Johnstone face Alashkert of Armenia, while Aberdeen take on Macedonian side Shkendija.

Welsh sides in the draw include AUK Broughton, who meet Lokomotiva Zagreb, while Bala Town and Newtown face FC Differdange 03 of Luxembourg and Maltese side Valletta respectively.

Northern's Ireland's Glenavon play Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Belarus, with Glentoran facing Slovak side MSK Zilina.

Shamrock Rovers play Luxembourg's Progres Niedercorn, Linfield tackle NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands and Saint Patrick's Athleticmeet Skonto FC of Latvia.

Cork City will be against KR Reykjavik of Iceland and University College Dublin face F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg.

Spanish sides are currently ruling Europe with La Liga champions Barcelona holding the Champions League, whilst Sevilla retained the Europa League.

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