Dundalk find themselves just one game away from becoming only the third League of Ireland side to reach the group stages of the Europa League and yet, this is easily the worst Dundalk side in almost a decade.
Plenty of superior League of Ireland outfits, Dundalk included, have failed to reach this stage of European qualification in recent years, but Filippo Giavagnoli’s side have managed it, although they do have an extremely favourable draw to thank for that.
The Lilywhites have disposed of clubs from Andorra and Moldova en route to their play-off appearance – Andorra is ranked second-worst in UEFA’s club coefficient while Moldova is ranked just one placed a head of Ireland.
They now face KI from the Faroe Islands, ranked 53rd by UEFA’s coefficient. However, the Faroe champions will be no pushovers.
They demolished Dinamo Tbilisi 6-1 in the third-round of the Europa League qualifiers and also had a good go against Young Boys in their second-round Champions League qualifier defeat.
Dundalk have been struggling all year, a fact emphasised by their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of champions elect Shamrock Rovers at the weekend. Even though Dundalk had more than one eye on this mammoth tie against KI, the defeat was not an isolated moment in Dundalk’s season.
They were shambolic in their Champions League exit at the hands Slovenian side Celje and were equally poor in their 3-1 defeat to Sligo Rovers. Giavignoli’s side have stuttered through their Europa League qualifying campaign and they might struggle again on Thursday night so Klaksvikar Itrottarfelag (+1) looks a good option.
Dundalk’s defending this season has left a lot to be desired. The Lilywhites have conceded 18 goals in their 11 league games so far this season and look increasingly porous at the back.
They will present opportunities to KÍ and the Faroe Islands champions seem to have the tools to hurt them, as demonstrated by their six-goal demolition of Dinamo Tbilisi last time out.
At the other end, Dundalk are still more than capable of finding the back of the net.
They have scored the second-highest amount of goals in the League of Ireland this season, despite playing at least two games fewer than every other side in the league and they still possess the quality to unlock the KÍ defence.
It will be a tense affair on Thursday night, but both teams should score.
Although arguably not the same player he was when he departed Oriel Park in 2017, McMillan is still a proven goalscorer in Europe for the Lilywhites.
His goals almost singlehandedly carried Dundalk to their famous Champions League play-off against Legia Warsaw in 2016, with his five goals in four games enough to see off both BATE Borisov and FH Hafnarfjörður.
Since his return to Oriel Park, he has scored yet another vital European goal for Dundalk, providing the winner in their narrow 1-0 win against Inter d’Escaldes.
McMillan is undoubtedly the man for the big occasion and Dundalk will need him to step up and Score Anytime in this colossal game on Thursday night.
Tips for Dundalk v KI
- Arsenal to get revenge on Liverpool in Carabao Cup clash on Thursday
- Will it be Turkish delight for Rangers v Galatasaray? Our SGM for Thursday’s Euro clash
- 3 for glee as Tottenham host Maccabi Tel Aviv
- Our 10/1 Same Game Multi as Celtic tackle FK Sarajevo