‘Aberdeen can expected a solid defence from RoPS’ says Mixu Paatelainen

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Aberdeen were today warned they will have to break down a RoPS Rovaniemi side who will be content to sit deep at Pittodrie.

Former Dons striker Mixu Paatelainen managed Finland from 2011 to 15 and racked up 70 caps for his country.

The 52-year-old reckons Derek McInnes’ side face a “sticky” test tomorrow despite RoPS playing only their sixth Euro tie in the club’s 69-year history.

Now manager of Hong Kong, Paatelainen believes the next progression for manager McInnes at Pittodrie is to lead the Dons into the group stages.

However, to take the first step towards that the onus will be on the Dons attack to make home advantage count against a well organised, disciplined RoPS side.

Paatelainen said: “RoPS will be very sticky for Aberdeen.

“I don’t think there will be much room for Aberdeen nor will there be attacking in numbers from RoPS.

“Aberdeen can expect a typical Scandinavian side in terms of being organised, defending solidly and also displaying a real togetherness as a team.

“RoPS’ strength is in their defence as they have experience in players like Taye Taiwo (former Marseilles, AC Milan) and Mohamadou Sissoko who I managed at Kilmarnock.

“I don’t think Scottish teams should take anything for granted because the standard of sides in Europe is so strong now.

“RoPS are better equipped in terms of readiness to play as a team as their season is on-going.

“However, if Aberdeen play their normal high-tempo game it will be very difficult for RoPS as the Dons are a quality side.”

Although Paatelainen expects RoPS to go defensive he insists the Finns will not adopt rough house tactics.

He said: “I don’t think RoPS will be physical, dirty or try to upset the Aberdeen players.

“That is not the mentality of the club or Finnish teams in general.

“It will be a clean game from that respect and quite tactical.”

Aberdeen will compete in Europe for a sixth successive season but the group stages still remain elusive for McInnes.

They exited at the third qualifying round four seasons in succession before losing to Burnley at the second qualifying round stage last season.

Should the Dons progress past RoPS a second round tie with Fola Esch of Luxembourg or Georgian side Chikhura Sachhere awaits.

Paatelainen said: “Derek has done a fantastic job with the way he has brought relative success to the club and I believe the next step is progressing in European competitions, maybe the groups.

“However, I have done a lot of work for UEFA in the Europa League and Champions League as well as being part of coach education in many different European countries.

“I know the standard in Europe is high so it is not easy to progress.”

Paatelainen, who starred for the Dons from 1992-94, also played for Dundee United, Hibs, St Johnstone and St Mirren.

Having also managed Hibs, Kilmarnock and Dundee United he has an understanding of the level of Finnish football in comparison to Scotland.

He said: “Top teams like HNK Helsinki and one or two other sides from Finland can match Scottish Premiership sides in a head-to-head match.

“In the long run Scottish clubs would be more consistent. However, you never know what can happen in a one-off game like the one at Pittodrie with RoPS.”

Tomorrow’s Europa League first qualifying round first leg tie will be Aberdeen’s first competitive match of the season.

In contrast RoPS are 15 games into their domestic campaign.

However, having finished second top last season to qualify for Europe RoPS are languishing third bottom and have won just once in the last seven games.

“RoPS are well into their season but Aberdeen are seasoned campaigners in Europe whereas they are not,” said Paatelainen.

“That is a big thing in Aberdeen’s favour.

“Although RoPS have experience in players like Taiwo they also have a lot of talented Finnish youngsters.

“Those youngsters will be playing their first European matches.

“This will be a new adventure for them.

“Aberdeen are definitely the favourites to progress even though RoPS are well into their domestic season.”

The Dons will face RoPS in the return leg at the Rovaniemen Keskuskentta in the Arctic Circle next Thursday.

A small contingent of 200 Dons fans will travel across to the tie.

Paatelainen said: “The supporters are very passionate up there in the north of Finland.

“Although the stadium is small there will be noise and a strong support for RoPS.

“The people there love their team.”

In April this year Paatelainen was appointed head coach of the Hong Kong national side on a contract until 2020.

He said: “The attitude of the people and the players with Hong Kong is fantastic.

“I have gone there to try to develop the team and hopefully improve the players individually.

“I want to do my best for Hong Kong football. I will work wholeheartedly and honestly for that and hopefully provide them with happy memories.

“We start the World Cup qualifiers in September and we’re looking forward to it.”

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