The New Saints FC have the chance to overcome the first hurdle of a European competition for the first time when Lithuania's FK Sūduva visit Wales this evening.
With the exception of last season, when they led 3-2 against FK Ventspils after the home game before succumbing on away goals after a 2-1 loss in Latvia, TNS have always gone into second legs needing to overturn a deficit. Assistant manager Mike Davies now believes they can make up for the disappointment of previous years. "We're reasonably happy with the situation and are confident we can get through," he told uefa.com. "We could have been 3-0 down at one stage of the first game, but although they had quite a lot of shots on goal many of these came from outside the box. Sūduva will have had a hectic travel schedule and we are hoping to take advantage of that.
"There's a massive incentive for us to get through," Davies continued ahead of the match at Latham Park in Newtown. "It would be the first time for this club and would open up the possibility of getting drawn against Manchester City [FC] or Aston Villa [FC] in the next round. That would be wonderful for the lads. Some of them have been involved in all eight successive campaigns and they would love the opportunity to continue beyond the first round."
Davies and manager Andy Cale are embarking on their first full season together in charge of the former Welsh champions, having succeeded Ken McKenna, who guided the team to three straight titles between 2005 and 2007, in March. It was a change that gave Cale his third spell with the Saints – he occupied the helm when they secured their first league crown in 1999/2000 before later returning to work as head coach under McKenna – while Davies has stepped up from running the club's academy. "The facilities we've got here are first class," Davies added. "The players have responded to everything we are trying to do and we're lucky we've virtually got an injury-free squad. We've lost a few players and the squad is not as big as last year but we've got the numbers we want and it all points to a promising future."