Aberdeen: Derek McInnes relishes tough Europa League test

Derek McInnes consoles Willo Flood after defeat by Real Sociedad
Aberdeen lost narrowly to Real Sociedad last season

Derek McInnes believes Aberdeen have been handed another tough Europa League draw but has belief that they can at least repeat last season's run.

The Dons beat Daugava Riga and Groningen before being edged out by Real Sociedad in the qualifying rounds.

This time, they take on Shkendija of Macedonia for the honour of facing Rijeka of Croatia in the second round.

"We maybe got the toughest draw we could have," said the Dons manager. "But we have confidence in ourselves."

Aberdeen could have faced Bala Town of Wales, Northern Ireland's Glenavon, Seinajoki of Finland, or Víkingur of the Faroe Islands.

Besart Ibraimi in action for Schalke
Macedonia striker Besart Ibraimi spent a season with Schalke

Instead, they will face a side who finished third in the Macedonian top flight, their best finish since winning the title for the first time in 2011.

Shkendija have failed to win a tie in their last three European outings, losing to Partizan Belgrade, Portadown and Zimbru Chisinau.

But McInnes said: "They finished the season really strong and they are obviously a decent team.

"We don't know too much about them, but we know it's going to be pretty hot down there, it is a wee bit of a journey, but it is what it is about and is why we want European football."

Shkendija play at the 15,000-capacity Gradski Stadion in Tetovo, a city with a population of 53,000 in the north west of Macedonia.

Coach Shpetim Duro has a squad of mainly home-based players with a sprinkling of appearances between them for the national side.

Central defender Xhelil Abdulla previously played in Germany with Duisburg, Artim Pollozhani was with Torpedo Moscow, while fellow midfielders Blaze Todorovski and Hristijan Kirovski spent time with Dinamo Bucuresti and CSKA Sofia respectively.

Bojan Vrucina in action for Slaven Belupo
Bojan Vrucina is a former Croatia international who spent time with Hapoel Tel Aviv

Macedonia striker Besart Ibraimi was once with Schalke, while former Croatia forward Bojan Vrucina was with Hapoel Tel Aviv and Brazilian striker Junior was with Litex Lovech.

"First impressions are that they are a team that want to play and have good technical players," said McInnes, who has already watched videos of their opponents.

"They are ranked 363 in the world and we are 285, so there is not a great deal of difference."

McInnes is not setting any targets for Europa League progress despite their much-praised season as runners-up in the Scottish Premiership.

"To get through four matches to get to the group stage is a big ask," he said.

"But it is important we try to make it a good experience and I thought we did that last season.

"I thought we got tough draws nonetheless and today has been another tough draw.

"But we were good enough to beat a very good Groningen team and we ran Real Sociedad close and we can take confidence from that."

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