HNK Rijeka vs AberdeenUEFA Europa League, KO: 19:00 Aug 8, 2019, Stadion HNK Rijeka
ABERDEEN have been hugely impressive so far in the Europa League qualifiers, raising hopes that they can reach the group stage for the first time under Derek McInnes.
The Dons won both legs against Finnish sides RoPS for a 4-2 aggregate win before a battling 1-1 draw in Georgia set them up nicely for a return at Pittodrie against Chikhura Sachkhere.
I fancied McInnes' side to finish the job against Chikhura but backed the game to be close as I expected the score to be either 1-0 or 2-1.
What could have been a nervy night in the Granite City turned into a stroll, however, as Aberdeen blew the Georgians away with a superb 5-0 win.
Now they face a tricky third-round qualifier with old foes Rijeka, the side they beat 5-2 on aggregate four years ago in the qualifiers.
It was all but over after the Dons won 3-0 in Croatia, probably the finest European result since McInnes became manager six seasons ago.
Fans will now be dreaming of a repeat but it's unlikely to be a stroll this time. That was a night when everything clicked for Aberdeen and even a narrow win here looks overly optimistic.
Rijeka have a pretty impressive pedigree, reaching the Europa League groups three times in the last six years. They even beat a classy Salzburg side in the Champions League qualifiers two years ago, only to miss out on a seat at Europe's top table when beaten by Olympiakos in the play-off round.
After dropping into the Europa League groups that season, they claimed the scalp of AC Milan with a 2-0 win at home and came close to another big result in the San Siro, losing 3-2 thanks to a last-gasp goal from Patrick Cutrone.
The European campaign that followed was a huge disappointment, bowing out to Norwegian side Sarpsborg in their first Europa League qualifier, but Rijeka are side who can hurt the Dons.
The one thing that might work in Aberdeen's favour is that they already have two qualifiers under their belt while this is Rijeka's first European game of the new campaign.
The Croatians have only played four domestic games but they're in good form, winning all three league matches after losing the Super Cup 1-0 to Dinamo Zagreb.
Rijeka are a best 31/40 with Betway and I'll be taking a bite at that, especially with key Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna unsettled as he tries to force through a move. To increase the odds, try backing Rijeka to be winning at both half-time and full-time which is 17/10 with Paddy Power.
QPR and Nottingham Forest have seen bids rejected for the Scotland star and that led to McKenna slapping in a transfer request. That was rejected by the club, who are holding out for £6million, and with the English window closing on the same night as the Dons are playing in Croatia, it remains to be seen if McKenna's head is in the right place.
McInnes can't afford to leave him out, especially with fellow stoppers Ash Taylor and Mikey Devlin missing the 3-2 weekend win over Hearts due to injury.
The only defender McInnes had on the bench against Hearts was 16-year-old Calvin Ramsey so McKenna looks almost certain to play but he could be affected by all the speculation.
The Croatians could get plenty of joy if McKenna's off his game so I like the look of over 1/5 Rijeka goals at 21/20 with BetVictor while over 2.5 goals may also pay off at 18/5 with the same firm.
Antonio-Mirko Colak has netted in the last two games for Rijeka so he could be a good shout in the anytime scorer market at 15/8 with Betway.
While Aberdeen have troubles in defence the same can't be said going forward, especially with Sam Cosgrove in such thrilling form. After his hat-trick against Chikhura and double against Hearts, the Englishman's tally for the season stands at an incredible eight goals from five games.
If the Dons are to grab a crucial away goal it's likely to come from Cosgrove and he's a generous 3/1 with Unibet in the anytime scorer market.
There have been penalty kicks in three of Aberdeen's five games this season so I'm tempted to back another here but I haven't seen a price anywhere. You may have to request odds from your bookie.
This UEFA Europa League match between HNK Rijeka and Aberdeen will be played on Aug 8, 2019 and kick off at 19:00