THE New Saints are hot favourites to make a winning start in their bid to reach the second qualifying round of the Champions League for the sixth successive season when they host minnows Europa on Tuesday night.
Rated 1/4 shots by Corbett Sports to beat their full-time opponents from Gibraltar in the first leg, the Saints will go into the tie without injured left back Chris Marriott, a European veteran with 23 appearances under his belt.
The visitors won their first-ever European tie last season when edging out Armenian side Pyunik Yerevan 3-2 on aggregate in the Europa League, prevailing 2-0 at home before losing 2-1 away.
But, despite being twice beaten 1-0 by Sweden’s AIK Solna in the second round, those results show the Green Machine can dig deep under pressure and both games were goal-less at half-time, suggesting the Park Hall clash could be a cagey contest.
Summer signings Blaine Hudson and Tom Holland are expected to make competitive debuts for the hosts, whose manager Scott Ruscoe promises an attacking performance: "We're going to go and give it our best in this leg to give us the best opportunity when we go to Portugal and play them in the away leg," he said.
"We're going to play on the front foot, be aggressive and play at our normal tempo and normal speed and give it a good go. They've got four key players that if we're not right could hurt us."