Two down, two to go for Aberdeen and Niall McGinn.
The group stages of the Europa League loom large on the horizon for the Dons but attacker McGinn knows his side is only halfway towards reaching their target.
The third qualifying round was where Aberdeen’s journey ended last year and Northern Ireland international McGinn and his team-mates are back to where they were a year ago, two rounds from the group stage and with it, a financial reward of £1.8million for the club.
Footballers are like any other football supporter. They sit at home and watch the established order of European football duke it out on a weekly basis in the Champions League and the Europa League.
But watching from the relaxed position of his sofa is not enough for McGinn and his team-mates. They want to be at the coalface of the European arena.
The former Celtic forward has let his mind drift towards thoughts of what may lie ahead but he knows there is still much work to be done.
McGinn said: “For us as players and a team we would love to get to the group stage. We want to play against the better teams and some of the best players in the world.
“We are sitting at home watching the Champions League and Europa League and to be involved in it would be incredible but there is still a lot of football to be played between now and then.”
Real Sociedad ended Aberdeen’s run last summer and on paper Kairat Almaty of Kazakhstan represent less of an obstacle than the Spaniards did when they won 5-2 on aggregate.
In fact, HNK Rijeka of Croatia, who succumbed to the Dons on Thursday at Pittodrie, boast a better pedigree than the Kazakhs but McGinn knows better than to be fooled into thinking the Dons have an easier task on their hands next week.
He said: “It is no mean feat to score five goals against the quality of the opposition we were up against in Rijeka.
“To score three in their backyard and to score two at Pittodrie must give us confidence. We will take confidence because before this game we had a couple of decent clean sheets as well.
“We have to keep this European adventure going as long as we can. We are getting to the stage where there will are no bad teams left.
“I am sure they will be looking at our performances and results and they will be wary of us as well.
“The performances are getting better, we are creating chances and scoring the goals and if that continues we will be happy.”
While respectful of Wladimir Weiss’ Kairat, however, McGinn is confident Aberdeen can at least go one step further than last year.
He said: “They are all winnable but it is all about putting in the right performance and taking our chances.
“We won’t game into any games lightly because we know they are a good side, although we know they lost on Thursday night.
“We just want to do better than last year and try to get to the group stages.”
“We played against a number of internationals against Rijeka and we know it is all about our team and if we work hard to cancel the opposition then we will have a chance although you also have to respect the quality of the opposition at times as well.”
If Aberdeen’s adventure is to continue to the play-off round, the input of manager Derek McInnes will be crucial.
The Dons manager has steered his side through two testing rounds thanks to a diligent and thorough dossier of the opposition, as has become his hallmark during his reign at Pittodrie.
McGinn knows the manager’s analysis of Kairat will be just as crucial for the players ahead of Thursday’s first leg in Kazakhstan.
He said: “It is massively important because preparation is always key.
“The manager puts in some incredible work behind the scenes. He is always doing the right stuff and using video analysis and bringing that to the players.
“It works and shows with us working hard on and off the ball. We have another hard game coming up but it is one we are looking forward to.”
McGinn has already played a key role in the Dons getting this far, scoring the crucial away goal against Shkendija in the first round before scoring his side’s first goal in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Rijeka at Pittodrie.
His contribution is all the more remarkable considering he had less than two weeks of a break for the second summer in a row due to international commitments and the need to return early for European commitments with the Dons.
But the 28-year-old from Dungannon insists he feels energised and sharp ahead of the new campaign.
He said: “I didn’t get much of a summer break so I feel fit and good.
“I was delighted to get a goal in the first round and to score the goal which brought a bit more calmness against Rijeka.
“I just love being part of the European adventure.”