An historic continental campaign begins for St Johnstone on Thursday, as the Scottish cup double winners travel to Galatasaray for the first leg of their Europa League third round qualifying tie.
Callum Davidson’s men enter at this stage courtesy of their domestic triumphs in the 2020-21 season, while Galatasaray have dropped down from the Champions League qualifying rounds
Galatasaray were up against it with less than two minutes on the clock during their Champions League second qualifying round first leg against PSV Eindhoven last month, as Eran Zahavi’s early strike set the Israeli striker on his way to a hat-trick during a 5-1 rout, where Mario Gotze also bagged a brace.
The return leg in Turkey was a much more closely-fought affair, but PSV ended up on the correct end of the scoreline as a 2-1 win saw them claim a romping 7-2 aggregate success over Fatih Terim’s men, who have now failed to make the Champions League group stages for the second year running.
Still waiting to kick off their Super Lig campaign – which begins on August 16 versus Giresunspor – a lack of competitive action evidently contributed to Galatasaray’s downfall against PSV, but a fixture with Danish side Danders awaits for the Turkish side should they get the better of St Johnstone.
However, Galatasaray do not have fond memories of recent encounters against Scottish sides, as Terim’s men were sent packing 2-1 by Rangers at the final hurdle for Europa League group stage qualification last season.
Having etched his name into St Johnstone managerial folklore, Callum Davidson now prepares to lead the Scottish Cup and League Cup double winners through their first continental campaign since the 2017-18 Europa League, which ended calamitously with a first-round defeat to Lithuanian side Trakai.
St Johnstone developed an affinity for goalless stalemates during an unbeaten pre-season period and stayed true to that penchant during their first fixture of the Scottish Premiership season, as Davidson’s men drew 0-0 with Ross County on the opening weekend.
The best opportunity of the tie was presented to Ali McCann from 12 yards, but the 21-year-old could not keep his penalty down, although Davidson was able to take the positives from his side’s display in the second 45 at the Global Energy Stadium.
Domestic travails take a back seat for now, though, as St Johnstone seek to qualify for the Europa League playoff round for the first time ever and take one step closer to the promised land of the group stages, but a club of Galatasaray’s continental calibre will provide the sternest test of Davidson’s managerial Saints career so far.
Galatasaray form (all competitions):
St Johnstone form (all competitions):