Nigeria striker set for UEFA Champions League debut

Nigeria striker Sunday Adetunji will compete in the UEFA Champions League for the first time when Shkupi face Lincoln Red Imps on Tuesday in the first-round of qualifying.

Although the fixture is regarded as Shkupi’s home game, the contest will be played at the National Arena Toshe Proeski rather than the Cair Stadium which is their usual home ground.

Shkupi were crowned champions of North Macedonia for the first time in their history last season thanks to 20 goals from Adetunji.

They cruised to the league title, winning the Macedonian First League by 12 points to not only clinch the silverware but also secure their place in the Champions League qualifying rounds.

Tuesday’s hosts have previously competed in the Europa League and Europa Conference League qualifying rounds, and they will appear in Europe’s elite club competition when they make their Champions League debut against Lincoln Red Imps.

The North Macedonian side will be hoping for a better result than their last European tie against Santa Clara, which resulted in a 5-0 aggregate defeat in the second round of Europa Conference League qualifying.

However, their preparations for the meeting with Lincoln Red Imps has been less than ideal, with their four friendly contests resulting in three defeats and one draw.

Meanwhile, Lincoln Red Imps will compete in the Champions League qualifying rounds for the seventh time in their history.

The champions of Gibraltar have never reached the group stage, however, they competed in a UEFA club competition group phase for the first time last season when they appeared in the inaugural Europa Conference League.

Although they lost all six group stage games in the Europa Conference League, Lincoln Red Imps would have gained invaluable experience from last season’s European campaign.

Their preparations for Tuesday’s contest have been minimal, with a 2-2 draw against Kilmarnock representing the only friendly contest that they have played in the build-up to the tie

However, Lincoln Red Imps can at least take confidence from the fact that they prevailed in the first qualifying round of the Champions League last season, beating Fola Esch 7-2 on aggregate.

Konstantin Cheshmedjiev featured in 32 games for Shkupi last season, but the defender has since departed on a free transfer, which will result in the hosts opting for a centre-back pairing of Faustin Senghor and Gagi Margvelashvili.

Aleksandar Gjurkovski has also followed Cheshmedjiev out of the exit door, but Shkupi have made numerous additions to the side, including Angelce Timovski who is set to be included in the starting lineup.

The hosts will be relying on Sunday Adetunji to provide the goal threat after the 24-year-old finished last season as the Macedonian First League top scorer.

Sunday Adetunji is pumped up for the game. He wrote via Facebook: “

I’m looking forward to my @championsleague debut on Tuesday. We hope to make it count.”

As for the Lincoln Red Imps, they have recently signed two new goalkeepers, with Nauzet Garcia and Ivan Villanueva joining the club on a free transfer, however, they are not likely to feature in Tuesday’s contest.

Dayle Coeling is set to be in goal for the hosts, and they will be shielded by Bernardo Lopes and Roy Chipolina who are likely to form the centre-back pairing.

After scoring 16 goals for Lincoln Red Imps last season, Kike Gomez is expected to lead the line for the champions of Gibraltar on Tuesday.

Shkupi possible starting lineup:
Iljazi; Timovski, Senghor, Margvelashvili, Sheji; Alvarez, Queven; Danfa, Hamidi, Trapanovski; Adetunji

Lincoln Red Imps possible starting lineup:
Coeling; Wiseman, Lopes, Chipolina, Toscano; Yahaya, Torrilla; Juampe, Walker, Britto; Gomez

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