Connah's Quay vs KilmarnockUEFA Europa League, KO: 19:00 Jul 11, 2019, Belle Vue
STEVE Clarke's sterling work at Kilmarnock may have landed him the Scotland job but in doing so he sent the Ayrshire side into Europe for the first time in 18 years.
Clarke's parting gift saw Killie fans with their passports at the ready but they can go back in the drawer for now as the Rugby Park men make the relatively short trip to North Wales to face Connah's Quay Nomads.
Thursday night will also herald the start of the Angelo Alessio era and the bookmakers are backing the Italian to hit the ground running with Kilmarnock as short 1/3 (Betway) to secure an away win in Wales.
Such a short price is understandable when you consider that Connah's Quay are a semi-professional side and that is reflected in their odds to come through this first leg without suffering defeat with a home win as high as 19/2 (BetVictor) whereas the draw is on offer at 19/4 (BetVictor) with the same firm.
Yet, the Nomads are no strangers to Scottish opposition after reaching the Scottish Challenge Cup final last season
In doing so the Welsh Premier League side seen off Falkirk, Queens Park and Edinburgh City but ultimately would go on to suffer defeat in a closely fought cup final against Ross County.
What's more Andy Morrison's men have featured in the early rounds of the Europa League in recent seasons and have notched up a notable win in Norway against Stabeak and the Nomad's also stunned HJK Helsinki at home.
However, Kilamrnock have caused many a shock of their own in recent times having beaten both sides of the Old Firm last term on route to splendidly securing a third place finish in the Scottish Premier League.
Italian Alessio is an intriguing appointment and he undoubtedly has big shoes to fill, but he arrives in Scotland with plenty of experience and pedigree and he has already made some exciting signings in the shape of Juventus goalkeeper Laurentiu Branescu and Dutch midfielder Mohamed El Makrini.
The bookies are in no doubt that the new Killie boss will bag a win in his first competitive match in charge, but having seen Connah's Quay firsthand last season I expect this first leg to be a tough assignment for the Ayrshire men.
Welsh cards were my first thought with this fixture but unfortunately it would appear that very few bookmakers are offering any kind of odds on that market.
The Nomands are a strong, hard working and organised outfit and will be roared on by a sell out crowd at Belle View in what could be a physical battle between these two British sides.
Killie also posses a number of the aforementioned attributes and much of their success last season was built on a solid defensive displays in the absence of a prolific attacker.
As such I'm expecting a tight tussle between these two and the 11/8 (BetVictor) on offer for Under 2.5 Goals is enticing.
In conjunction with that I suspect that the semi-professional hosts will tire in the latter stages of this clash and that Kilmarnock's superior stamina and quality could see them capitalise.
Therefore, another angle that appeals is backing the second half to be the highest scoring half at Evens (William Hill)
In considering who may get on the scorsheet, Scotland cap Eamonn Brophy is 8/11 (William Hill) to score anytime, whereas Connah's Quay will look towards warhorse Michael Wilde 19/5 (William Hill) to find the net.
However, I suspect that this could be a low-scoring affair and it wouldn't surprise me if a goal came from a set play and with that in mind I like the look of the 5/4 (Betfred) on offer for Any Player to Score a Header.
This UEFA Europa League match between Connah's Quay and Kilmarnock will be played on Jul 11, 2019 and kick off at 19:00