Aberdeen loan star Stefan Gartenmann is targeting qualification for the knock-out rounds of a European competition for the second successive season.
The centre-back progressed from the Europa League groups to the round of 16 last term with Danish parent club FC Midtjylland.
Now he hopes lightning will strike twice as he targets progression from Europa Conference League Group G with the Dons.
Euro shock-troops Midtjylland overcame the odds to finish second in their pool ahead of Italian giants Lazio and Sturm Graz of Austria last season.
Their memorable group campaign included a sensational 5-1 home victory over Serie A side Lazio.
Midtjylland also beat Sturm Graz at home to finish runners-up in a tough group which was won by crack Dutch outfit Feyenoord.
Defender Gartenmann netted the opener in the 3-1 Premiership win over Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday to send the Dons into Thursday’s home Conference League clash with HJK Helsinki on a high.
In a Euro Pittodrie double-header, the Reds host Finnish champions HJK, before facing Greek side PAOK in the Granite City on October 26.
The 26-year-old insists making home advantage count will be fundamental to Aberdeen progressing from the group stage, with Barry Robson’s side having already suffered a battling 2-1 Group G defeat at German big-shots Eintracht Frankfurt.
Gartenmann reckons if the Dons can win the upcoming Pittodrie double, they would only need “another point or two to qualify” for the Conference League knock-out phase.
He said: “If you can build up some early momentum then anything can happen in these European competitions.
“There are now two games at home against HJK and PAOK to come.
“We need to try and pick up points from every game, but we also know the importance of our home games.
“If we can win both home games against HJK and PAOK, then we might only need another point or two to qualify.
“It was a good performance against Eintracht Frankfurt (2-1 loss in Germany).
“However, we never took any points, which was a big disappointment.
“In European campaigns, you need to put the points on the board.
“That’s what it is all about.
“If we can get points and even create a gap, then that would be ideal because it’s going to be a tight group against three quality sides.”
‘I believe we can do really well in this group’
Pittodrie is set to be a sell-out later this week for the first European group stage game in the Granite City since the 2007-08 UEFA Cup.
The Dons marked their return to the elite Euro groups with an impressive performance against Bundesliga Eintracht Frankfurt, although they lost.
Gartenmann reckons Aberdeen can make an impact in Group G.
He said: “We know we have a quality team at this level.
“We showed it in Germany and now we have to show it over the next five games.
“If we do that, then I believe we can do really well in this group.”
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) September 30, 2023
The lure of Euro group stage action
Aberdeen signed Gartenmann on a year-long loan deal from Midtjylland.
The defender had already played in Europe this season prior to his switch to Pittodrie.
He featured in Midtjylland’s Europa Conference League qualifying victories over Omonia (Cyprus) and Progres Niederkorn (Luxembourg).
Gartenmann also played in both legs of the play-off clash with Legia Warsaw of Poland.
After a 1-1 draw and 3-3 draw, the play-off went to a penalty shoot-out with Midtjylland losing 6-7.
This ended the Danish club’s European dream this season – but not Gartenmann’s, as he switched to the Dons.
The defender aims to use the group stage platform to highlight his quality – and Aberdeen’s.
He said: “The European group stage was big in my decision to come here.
“I tried them last season with Midtjylland and they are fantastic occasions to be involved in.
“Coming to the big stages is amazing because you have so many massive games against top players in the best stadiums.
“There is something different about these matches.
“It’s what you dream about as a youngster.
“Now I am here and I want to show I am a good player and we are a good team.”
Shocking Italian giants Lazio 5-1
Last season Midtjylland progressed to the Europa League round of 16, where they faced Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon.
Gartenmann reckons this “surprised a lot of people”.
And he learned valuable lessons in that Euro campaign.
He aims to bring this wisdom to Aberdeen’s bid to progress from the groups.
He insists early momentum is pivotal, which is why the campaign could hinge on beating HJK and PAOK at Pittodrie.
The defender explained: “Last season we lost in the third qualifying round of the Champions League to Benfica (7-2 on aggregate).
“We then dropped into the group stages of the Europa League.
“In the groups, we had Lazio, Feyenoord and Sturm Graz.
“We beat Lazio at home 5-1, but then lost away (2-1).
“In the group, we drew with Feyenoord twice and also beat Sturm Graz at home, but we lost to them away.
“We managed to get through, which surprised quite a lot of people.
“In the knock-out stages in February we lost to Sporting Lisbon.
“It was was a great run and brilliant to be involved in.
“We got a draw in Lisbon and everything was to play for home at home, but Sporting were better on the night.
“It is all about keeping the game alive, as we showed in Frankfurt when we pushed them all the way.
“In European football, it is about keeping yourself in the games and trying to pick up as many points as you can along the way.”