Aberdeen vs HNK RijekaUEFA Europa League, KO: 19:45 Aug 15, 2019, Pittodrie
THE third qualifying round has been Aberdeen's glass ceiling in the Europa League under Derek McInnes and they are going to need a rousing comeback against Rijeka to smash through it this season.
The Dons were hugely impressive in the first two rounds against RoPS of Finland and Georgian side Chikhura Sachkhere but taking on the Croatians was a big step up in class.
Despite Aberdeen claiming a memorable 3-0 in Rijeka four years ago, I feared for them in the away leg last week, mainly due to problems at the back.
With key players injured and Scott McKenna hardly in a great frame of mind after having a transfer request booted out by the club, I tipped Rijeka to score over 1.5 goals in the first leg.
That bet came up, even though the Croatians left it late, with Robert Muric grabbing their second with just three minutes left to seal a 2-0 win.
McInnes paid the price for a conservative approach in the first leg, with the Dons rarely featuring as an attacking force, and the lack of an away goal leaves them with a mountain to climb.
Aberdeen are as big as 7/1 with Betway to qualify and even though they smashed home five against Chikhura in their last home European game, I've a feeling they will come up short here.
Had top scorer Sam Cosgrove returned after the hamstring injury that forced him to miss Sunday's defeat at St Mirren then the Pittodrie men might have had a fighting chance.
But boss McInnes has claimed he won't recover in time and that's a massive blow, as is the loss of summer signing Craig Bryson to injury in midfield.
However, it's worth bearing in mind that McInnes has previous when it comes to claiming key players will miss out, only for them to make a miraculous recovery.
That could be the case again here and Cosgrove is 13/8 with Bet365 for anytime scorer so that might be worth a punt in case he's fit to feature.
Replacement Curtis Main flopped up front in Paisley and even though I rate James Wilson as a forward, he lacks the finishing prowess of red-hot Cosgrove, who boasts eight goals from six games this season.
Rijeka have an injury worry too, with key midfielder Domagoj Pavicic dislocating his shoulder in the weekend defeat by Gorica.
But with Aberdeen having to push forward in search of two goals I still fancy the Croatians to score on the break at Pittodrie. They are just 1/3 with Sportingbet to find the net so try both teams to score instead at 8/11 with William Hill.
Antonio-Mirko Colak was my tip for a Rijeka scorer in the first leg and he duly delivered from the spot. I thought there might be a penalty in that match given Aberdeen's five previous games had yielded three spot-kicks but couldn't find a bookie offering any odds on one.
It's the same early on for this tie so keep your eyes peeled or request a bet but in the meantime I'll be sticking with Colak in the anytime scorer market at 23/10 with Paddy Power.
If Cosgrove is missing, the replacement Aberdeen strikers are too inconsistent to bank on for a goal. So try either winger Niall McGinn at 15/4 with Betway or midfielder Lewis Ferguson at 4/1 with William Hill in the anytime scorer market.
Despite Aberdeen needing goals, I can't see arch pragmatist McInnes throwing caution to the wind straight from kick-off as he knows an early Rijeka strike will kill the tie stone dead. That lends value to the first goal coming after 26 minutes, which is 51/50 with Marathonbet.
This UEFA Europa League match between Aberdeen and HNK Rijeka will be played on Aug 15, 2019 and kick off at 19:45