Perennial Welsh Premier League champions The New Saints launch their latest attempt at making it through to the main stages of European competition in Macedonia tonight (7.15).
The New Saints face Macedonian champions KF Shkendija in the first qualifying round of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League and despite there being little known about their opponents, the Saints themselves have become something of an unknown quantity after a busy summer of recruitment.
Despite the domestic dominance, The Saints are yet to realise their long-term ambition of making a serious push to qualify for the group stages of either the Champions League or Europa League, and the club are hoping their latest recruitment drive can push them on.
The Oswestry-based side have added seven new players to their squad following the end of the last season, whilst long-serving defender Connell Rawlinson headlines a list of nine departures from the club.
Among the new arrivals are highly rated Swansea City defender Ben Cabango, who arrives on loan from the Liberty Stadium, along with attacking midfielder Danny Redmond and ex-Hibernian striker Kurtis Byrne.
Manager Scott Ruscoe will be hoping his revamped squad can improve on last season’s campaign in which they edged past Gibraltarian side Europa on away goals before being comprehensively beaten over two legs by Croatian outfit HNK Rijeka.
The new additions have had plenty of time to integrate themselves into The New Saints squad after an early pre-season in preparation for their European fixtures.
Following a training camp in Portugal, the Saints have played friendlies against fellow Welsh sides Cefn Druids and Bala Town, plus trips to face Jamie Vardy’s V9 Academy and Glasgow Rangers, before beating Falkirk 2-0 at Park Hall last Friday night.
The New Saints will play tonight’s match at the national stadium in Skopje, 28 miles away from Tetovo, the city where Shkendija are based.
The second leg will be played next Tuesday at Park Hall with the losing team dropping into the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.