Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes wants to see his side take on the best the Europa League has to offer this season.
Maribor, Almaty and Real Sociedad have ended Aberdeen’s interest in the tournament at the third qualifying round in the last three seasons and McInnes has urged his players to reach the play-off round to give themselves a chance of making it to the group stages of the tournament.
The Dons manager said: “This is top of my priorities as it’s the only competition we are in right now. We’re not going to win the Europa League, but we can win cups domestically and compete in the league, and I want us to compete in Europe.
“Playing a couple of rounds in Europe before being knocked out is not enough. We want to be among the big teams this season. Against Almaty and Maribor we’ve suffered a hard luck story and we don’t want to go through that again. We have to find a way to win those games and get into the group stages, but first of all we have to negotiate this tie.
“I want to do better than we have done in previous years. Whoever wins this tie will face a tougher opponent, but I want to us to mix it with the best and there are plenty of them in this competition.”
The Dons begin their latest European campaign at Pittodrie tonight against NK Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Aberdeen manager is daring to dream.
He said: “There is a lot of respect to be gained here and we want to be among the better clubs in Europe, the teams people instantly know when a draw is made.
“We want to get among that, but we have to deal with a good team first. We hope to do it confidently, but there are no guarantees and we have to deliver. One good performance is not enough. We have to deliver in both legs.”
Siroki Brijeg upset the odds to beat Ordabasy of Kazakhstan to set-up a meeting with the Dons and while he expects to progress, McInnes has warned his side they will have to produce a good performance to beat Goran Sablic’s side.
He said: “I know you’d expect me to say this but I’ve genuinely been really impressed by them. I’ve been concentrating on them and I feel as though I’ve a good handle on them. They’ve good pace at full back and the wide areas. They’re a team that’s happy when they don’t have the ball, they’re confident in their defending.
“They don’t score a lot of goals, but they didn’t give up too many opportunities against Ordabasy.
“It is a tie I want us to win and I expect us to go through, but we have to play well.”