Unsettling RoPS the key to Europa League progress for Aberdeen, says former Don Mixu Paatelainen

Mixu Paatelainen during his time with the Dons.
Mixu Paatelainen during his time with the Dons.

Mixu Paatelainen believes unsettling RoPS Rovaniemi of Finland will be key to Aberdeen progressing to the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

The former Don, who also played and managed Finland, is currently managing the Hong Kong national team, but he remains knowledgeable about football in his homeland and the Scottish game where he spent most of his career.

He points to the Finnish club’s lack of European experience – Thursday’s campaign will be the sixth in the club’s 69-year history – as a crucial factor which could count against them when they face the Dons.

A second leg against either Fola Esch of Luxembourg or Georgian side Chikhura Sachkhere awaits the the winners of the tie and while Paatelainen expects the Dons to progress he believes safe passage to the second round will be much tougher if the Dons decide not to play their usual direct style.

He said: “RoPS are not great physically and they are a young side. I’m not sure if they will cope with the high press and fast tempo Aberdeen play at. If the Dons are sharp for the first game it could be a very busy night for their goalkeeper at Pittodrie.

“The second leg is different though. RoPS do not play at a big stadium but their fans are passionate and make a lot of noise. Facing Aberdeen will be a big deal for the locals and they will get behind their team.

“The emphasis of the team is on counter-attacking their opponents and Aberdeen will have to be on their toes.”

In European terms, the club does not boast a rich pedigree but Paatelainen insists there is quality in Pasi Tuutti’s ranks.

He said: “It has been a time of change at the club with Toni Koskela, the manager, leaving to join HJK Helsinki two months ago and his replacement, assistant manager Pasi Tuutti, has only just started in the job but he will get the team going and I don’t expect him to change their style.

“RoPS’ strength lies in their defence. They have experience in Taye Taiwo, a former Nigerian international, at left back and Mohamadou Sissoko, who I brought to Kilmarnock, plays in central defence. Kalle Katz, another defender, is a very promising young player as well and one with great potential.

“Lucas Lingman, who plays in the midfield, is a decent player too, He’s comfortable on the ball, like Katz has great potential, and is a good passer. He is the player they will look to make things happen.”