UEFA Champions League and Europa League football returns to Wales this week as The New Saints and Connah's Quay Nomads prepare to take on FC Copenhagen and FK Partizan respectively.
The action begins on Tuesday evening when Danish giants FC Copenhagen begin their Champions League campaign against The New Saints at Park Hall (7pm). Scott Ruscoe's side disposed of Kosovan outfit Feronikeli 3-2 on aggregate in the last round to set-up this much anticipated tie.
Meanwhile, the heroics of knocking Kilmarnock out of the Europa League will be put to one side for Connah's Quay Nomads on Thursday when FK Partizan make the journey from Belgrade to Belle Vue, Rhyl (6.30pm). Andy Morrison's side produced arguably the best result ever achieved by a JD Welsh Premier League club in Europe, and will relish this latest challenge.
FC Copenhagen have been a regular name in European competition since their first UEFA Intertoto Cup campaign back in 1992. Since then, the club has competed regularly in the group stages of the Champions League and the Europa League, and will see the Welsh champions as another step towards mixing it with Europe's elite.
Since 1992, FC Copenhagen have played over 200 European ties, and boast an impressive win percentage of over 40%. This is the level of opposition that The New Saints now find themselves competing against, but they have earned the right to do so on merit following their heroics in Kosovo last week, and Ruscoe will ensure his side are fully-prepared for the task ahead.
This will be FC Copenhagen's third competitive visit to Wales, having previously taken on Carmarthen Town in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup, and more recently Newtown in 2015/16, when the two sides met at Latham Park in the Europa League. Respective 4-0 and 5-1 aggregate victories for the Danes brought an end to each campaign for our two clubs.
Former Aston Villa and Serbia striker Savo Milošević is the current manager of FK Partizan, and the club has a long and proud history in European competition. They competed in the first ever European Cup in 1955/56, losing to eventual winners Real Madrid in the quarter-final. In 1965/66, the club reached the European Cup Final, but suffered a 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid.
This will be the second time that FK Partizan has played against a Welsh team in Europe, and they will visit the very same stadium on Thursday. In 2009/10, the club were drawn against Rhyl in the Champions League, and recorded their biggest-ever European win with a 8-0 victory in Belgrade. A 4-0 win in the return match completed the 12-0 aggregate scoreline.
However, the JD Welsh Premier League has come a long way over the course of the last decade, and the progress is reflected in the continued improvement of European results and performances. Teams across Europe are quickly discovering that our teams cannot be taken for granted, and the growing respect for our clubs means there will be plenty of interested onlookers when our two teams take to the field in Europe this week.