The New Saints’ interim boss Scott Ruscoe has called on his players to stamp their authority on next week’s Champions League first qualifying clash with FC Europa of Gibraltar.
TNS were drawn against the Gibraltan champions yesterday, with the first leg at The Venue on Tuesday before travelling for the return leg a week later.
Ruscoe admitted his side were relieved to avoid trips to Kosovo and Armenia and wants his players to show why they are the seeded team and favourites.
“They’re going to be a test, but what we have to remember is we’re the seeded team and they’re unseeded,” he said.
“We are seen as the favourites, although we’re not going to take the tie lightly. But we need to realise we are the seeded team in the draw.
“We can’t win the tie in the first game but we can make sure we get ourselves ahead. That’s exactly what we want to do.
“We’ll play our normal game while giving them respect and doing our homework on them. We’ll hope to get some goals and let the second leg take care of itself, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.
“Obviously from a logistics point of view, it’s a draw we would have favoured with everything that goes with the planning for the tie.
“We’re at home first, which means we can put our stamp on the tie. We were fearing going to Kosovo or Armenia, simply because of the travel.
“We’ve had a look at Europa through footage of them. We think they’ve had a bit of money put into them because Lincoln Red Imps have been the ones winning the league over the past few years.
“We have a quiet confidence and we told the players that before our friendly against Rangers yesterday. We’ll tell them to not worry about the second round – focus on Europa.”
Should TNS pass their Euopa test with flying colours, a much harder task awaits – a constant theme in the Welsh champions’ excursions into Europe’s premier competition.
A trip to Croatia to face national champions HNK Rijeka on July 11-12 and 18-19 will pose a tough test, with the club breaking the dominance of Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb.
But Ruscoe isn’t looking that far ahead and wants TNS to focus on what they can do to other teams.
He added: “In the second round, a positive is it’s not a long flight, so it might be good logistically for us.
“We know Croatia is a good footballing country with some famous names. Anyone who wins that league will have a high pedigree.
“It’ll be a tough test but we’re not thinking beyond the first game – we’ll plan for Europa and then we’ll plan for HNK if, and when, we win.
“The message is about who we are. It doesn’t matter who we get in the draw, we know how good our squad is and they’ve shown what they can do.
“We believe in our players and every year we improve in Europe.”
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