Europa League qualification action on deck for Thursday as Croatian First Football League (known as the 1.HNL) side HNK Rijeka travels to Pittodrie Stadium to take on Scottish Premier League mainstay Aberdeen FC. Rijeka is in control of the set by virtue of a 2-0 win at home in first leg. Rijeka was the runner up in the 1.HNL last season while Aberdeen finished in fourth place in the Premiership. They were tied with third place Kilmarnock at 58 points but both teams were well back of second place Rangers (66 points) and league champion Celtic (77 points).
Aberdeen pretty much cruised through the first two rounds of Europa League qualification beating Rovaniemen Palloseura aka RoPS of the Finnish Premier Division (Veikkausliga) 4-2 on the aggregate and Georgian Erovnuli Liga side FC Chikhura Sachkhere 6-1 on the aggregate. The easy route they had to this point might have dulled them competitive as they were completely outplayed by Rijeka in the first leg en route to a 2-0 loss. The match was a scoreless tie at halftime but Aberdeen conceded two goals in the final 30 minutes to find themselves in a two goal hole as they return home. Striker Sam Cosgrove missed the first leg and is expected to be out here as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury.
Rijeka is definitely in the ‘driver’s seat’ as they head to Scotland for this competition. The tough fixture in the opening leg may have not been easy for them to recover from as they dropped their first game in the 1.HNL last weekend losing at Gorizia 2-0. They showed a nice ability to control tempo in the opening fixture, however, and if they can do that here they’ll advance. Aberdeen hasn’t scored more than two goals in eight of nine Europa League games with the exception the second leg against Chikhura which they won 5-0. They’re stepping up in class here and as long as Rijeka keeps their composure on the enemy pitch they’re in good shape. We’re expecting Aberdeen to take a close win at home but for Rijeka to go through.