Nyon - VfB Stuttgart’s 2013/14 season will start against either HSK Zrinjsky of Bosnia-Herzegovina or PFC Botev Plovdiv of Bulgaria in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League.

The Swabians, who made it to the last 16 of the competition last season, will play the first leg away from home on 1 August before staging the return at the Mercedes-Benz Arena a week later on 8 August.

Early starters


In view of what Stuttgart hope will be two successful qualifying rounds, Bruno Labbadia’s men were one of the first Bundesliga sides in pre-season training. They have been working for three weeks already in a bid to be ready to challenge for a place in the group stage of the competition.

Last season Stuttgart needed just one qualifying round to join the main field, beating FC Dinamo Moskva 3-1 on aggregate. They then progressed from a group including FC Steaua Bucuresti, FC København and Molde FK before eliminating KRC Genk.

German contenders


They then bowed out 5-1 on aggregate to S.S. Lazio, but qualified for the competition again by virtue of reaching the DFB Cup final in May, which they lost 3-2 to FC Bayern Munich.

Should Labbadia's men progress, they will be joined in the Europa League play-off round at the end of August by Eintracht Frankfurt, while SC Freiburg have an automatic berth in the group stage after finishing fifth in the Bundesliga last season.