Aberdeen gaffer Derek McInnes is expecting no gifts from their Laplander Europa League opponents

Stephen McPhail of Shamrock Rovers in action against Robert Taylor of RoPS Rovaniemi during the UEFA Europa League First Qualifying Round 1st Leg game between Shamrock Rovers and RoPS Rovaniemi at Tallaght Stadium in Tallaght, Co Dublin. (Photo By David Maher/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Stephen McPhail of Shamrock Rovers in action against Robert Taylor of RoPS Rovaniemi during the UEFA Europa League First Qualifying Round 1st Leg game between Shamrock Rovers and RoPS Rovaniemi at Tallaght Stadium in Tallaght, Co Dublin. (Photo By David Maher/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

A sixth Europa League campaign beckons for Aberdeen as they tick off a new destination of countries they have played competitive matches in.

RoPS Rovaniemi stand between the Dons and a place in the second qualifying round of the Europa League next month.

Subject to approval by Uefa, Pittodrie will host the first leg on July 11 with the Dons travelling to the 4,000 capacity Rovaniemen Keskuskentta stadium for the second leg a week later.

For Dons boss Derek McInnes, the fact the opposition’s season started in April is a double-edged sword. He will have ample opportunity to glean as much information ahead of the tie as he wants but he knows RoPS will have the advantage in match sharpness.

That’s why he knows better than to expect a team bearing gifts when he takes his side to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland and official home of Santa Claus.

The Aberdeen manager is confident but also cautious.

He said: “You look at the group of teams we could have got and we knew more about some than others.

“I can’t pretend to know everything about them yet but we’re well on our way to getting a better handle on them.

“They did well in the Finnish league, finishing second and they are up and running already, as most teams we could have faced are, and that’s always the biggest trepidation, facing a team when you are undercooked.

“It is important we use the time well between now and the first game at Pittodrie but we’ve dealt with it in the past.

“These games throw up challenges and the fact they are up and running ensures we will give them respect.”

McInnes is putting his players through their paces at pre-season training in Aberdeen this week before taking his squad back to Cork in Ireland next week for a week-long training camp.

He believes the trip was a successful one last year and expects next week’s return to be just as fruitful.

He said: “It has been a busy four weeks for us trying to get on with new signings and there is a bit of excitement on the first day back.

“We’re looking forward to getting our hands dirty and getting going again.

“We’ve got a few days in Aberdeen before we travel next week so we’ll get six sessions in before we travel.

“Cork was good for us last season and it’s about getting integration and setting a standard.

“We’re used to this type of pre-season.”

He continued: “Last year was a big demand to be ready for a team of Burnley’s quality so we will go through a similar preparation for the first game.”

The Aberdeen manager is relieved his plans for Cork were not scuppered by a European tie against Welsh club Connah’s Quay Nomads, who the Dons will face next Saturday at the end of their week in the Emerald Isle.

McInnes, who has brought in three new signings so far in Curtis Main, Ashton Taylor and Ryan Hedges, said: “This time last week we were thinking we would be drawn against Connah’s Quay Nomads which would have put paid to our friendly against them.

“We’ve played a few Welsh teams in pre-season before as they face the same problems with games as we do so we’re looking forward to it.”

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