Mixu Paatelainen believes a first-leg lead is vital for Aberdeen in their bid to progress to the second qualifying round of the Europa League next month.
The Dons face RoPS Rovaniemi at Pittodrie on Thursday July 11 before travelling to Finland for the second leg on Thursday July 18.
The winners of the tie will face either Fola Esch of Luxembourg or Georgian side Chikhura Sachkhere in the second round following yesterday’s draw in Nyon, Switzerland.
Former Finnish international player and manager Paatelainen, who played for several Scottish clubs including the Dons from 1992 to 1994, insists the first leg at Pittodrie will be the key game for Derek McInnes and his players.
He said: “There is every chance Aberdeen will have a lead from the first leg and I think it is important for Derek McInnes and his players that they do win the first leg as the second game in Finland will not be plain sailing.
“All clubs in Finland prepare well tactically and for Aberdeen’s sake a first-leg lead will help them enormously.
“It will be an interesting tie. RoPS have not been in Europe for ages and most of their players will not be accustomed to European competition. They are a well-organised typical Scandinavian team.
“They are used to defending, are a well-drilled outfit. Aberdeen can expect to face a team which has plenty numbers behind the ball.
“The second leg in Finland will be a tricky one for the Dons. I fancy Aberdeen strongly at home and I expect they will be aggressive and comfortable on the ball at Pittodrie but the trip to Finland will be a sticky one.”
Paatelainen, who is currently manager of Hong Kong, is pleased to see RoPS rewarded for their excellent domestic campaign last season with a glamour tie against the Dons but is backing his former club to progress to the second qualifying round.
RoPS finished second in the Finnish top flight but have struggled so far in 2019, winning just four of their opening 12 matches in the division and are third from bottom.
Paatelainen said: “RoPS had a wonderful season last year, their best one in ages, and while it was fantastic to finish second they are not used to European competition.
“It will be hard for them against a team like Aberdeen which has been playing at that level every year under Derek McInnes.
“They are capable of getting results against anybody in Finnish football but I am confident if Aberdeen play their normal game that they can progress.”