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aberdeen 2 1000x500It’s here, it’s time to travel to Scotland to face Aberdeen in the Europa League. All the weeks of waiting are finally at an end and we are set for a return to European football.

We’ve played just over a handful of friendlies to prepare starting at Cork a week last Friday and ending at Deepdale with a 3-2 win against Preston just two days ago. Now, for the first time ever, we play a competitive game in July and what a game it is.

We’ll be without Steven Defour, Robbie Brady and Ashley Barnes for the game but it is likely that everyone else will be fit and that includes Chris Wood who sat out the Preston win with a tight hamstring.

Everyone has been talking about the game, fans, players and managers alike and James Tarkowski is one Burnley player who just can’t wait. He had a terrific 2017/18 season, winning a regular place in the team and going on to make an England debut.

“It’s another tick on your list of everything you want to achieve in football,” he said. “I made it to the Premier League, which is nice, got a little bit of international football and then to say you’ve played European football is another achievement, so hopefully I get the chance on Thursday.”

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He added: “We are only going to Scotland, so we are going to face a lot of British lads, but I still think the whole feel of it will be exciting for the fans and for ourselves. The lads are really looking forward to it and going to experience a different style of football.

“There’s a lot of excitement, especially from the fans, about us going on a European tour, so it would be daft to go and waste it on the first round of qualifying, so we want to go as far as we can, but we have to get past the first game. We like to test ourselves and going up there will be a good test.”

Tarky was named in the standby squad for the World Cup but ultimately had to pull out for groin surgery. He’s back fully fit and played his part throughout the pre-season so far and is expected to play tomorrow.

What will the team be? If Wood is passed fit I would expect him to come in for Sam Vokes in what might be the only change from the team that started at Preston. That would see us line up: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Aaron Lennon, Jeff Hendrick, Chris Wood. Subs from: Nick Pope, Anders Lindegaard, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Dwight McNeil, Jon Walters, Nahki Wells, Sam Vokes.

It’s undoubtedly a tough draw against an Aberdeen side who are regular European competitors and were once again runners up behind Celtic in last season’s Scottish Premiership. A year ago they made the 3rd qualifying round, having beaten NK Široki Brijeg, where they went out to Apollon Limassol.

They’ve had a strange pre-season. One game was called off because of injury problems while another was abandoned when one of their opponents suffered an injury. Manager Derek McInnes has been trying to bring new players in and just a few days ago that became more urgent when he lost Adam Rooney to Salford. A bid for Preston’s Eoin Doyle came to nothing.

They have added to the squad in the last couple of days with the loan signings of Dominic Ball and Tommie Hoban from Rotherham and Watford and they’ve followed that up with the capture of former Partick Thistle goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. It appears the rules will permit the loan signings to play tomorrow should they be selected.

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McInnes was at Deepdale on Monday and he was impressed with us. “Burnley are very good at what they do, they have excellent players and they ask questions of you,” he said. “There are always things you can pick up from watching a game but there were no surprises. They have a bit of everything, they have players who handle the ball well, they can be physical and they are also very well organised. Their work rate is exceptional and when they get the ball forward they have players who can play in the final third.”

One player who does concern him is Aaron Lennon. He said of him: “It’s clear Aaron Lennon is someone who gives them that pace and trickery high up the pitch. He is very good in a one on one situation and gets defenders running towards their own goal. He is a clever player, and like all good players, when they get older they still do the right things.”

Burnley are their first English opponents in European competition since 1981 when they beat Bobby Robson’s Ipswich.  Prior to that they’d been beaten by Spurs in 1973 and by Liverpool in 1980.

When Burnley last played in Europe, Ralph Coates (pictured above playing for Spurs) was in our team. He was the first player ever score a European goal for an English club against Aberdeen. Now it is the turn of the current Clarets to add to that goal Ralph scored all those years ago.

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