WITH Viking Stavanger standing between Aberdeen and a place in the Europa League third qualifying round, Ash Taylor understands that his undivided attention has to be on the one-off match in the SR-Bank Arena in Norway on Thursday night.

But the Pittodrie defender admitted this week the chance to take on Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon in the 50,000-capacity Stade Alvalade the following week if his side go through is an appealing one and gives them an added incentive to do well.

“The prospect of playing Sporting Lisbon in the next round is mouthwatering and a huge motivator,” said Taylor. “It’s something to look forward to if we can get through.

“You want to pit yourself against the European big boys and they are certainly one of them with their history. You want to play against those good players, so it's something that we are looking forward to. But it will be the same for them so we’ll have to make sure we do our jobs.

“First and foremost we need to win this tie. As players, you have just got to look at the next game and focus on that because if you take your eye off it that's where you can get caught out.”

The centre half confessed the chance to play in continental competition against such renowned opposition was part of the reason he agreed to return to Aberdeen last summer after two seasons at Northampton Town.

He suffered an injury in the meeting with Chikhura Sachkhere in Albania last term and then missed the rematch and the double header with Rijeka of Croatia as a result. He also sat out the encounter with Faroese minnows NSI Runavik in the previous round.

So Taylor is determined to go on an extended run in the weeks ahead. He knows how difficult it will be to progress to the group stages given the quality of teams Derek McInnes’s men will have to overcome to get there. But he would like to make amends for past disappointments by doing so.

He feels that doing so will help to repay Dons fans – 300 of whom were allowed in to their Premiership match against Kilmarnock at Pittodrie yesterday in a coronavirus test event – for their continued backing during the football shutdown.

“I’ve had some good memories in the European football and it was something I missed when I went back to England so I’m glad to be back involved in it all again,” he said.

“You come up against very technical players in Europe so you have to be switched on mentally. There’s a lot of movement and interchange with players so you have to be 100 per cent focused at all times.

“I picked up an injury in Europe last season which was disappointing because I felt I was getting into my stride after pre-season, but thankfully it was at the start of the campaign rather than in the middle. I overstretched my hamstring when I slid in to win the ball. I got up and knew straight away it was a bad one.

“We’ve come close a few times so it’s about taking that next step and it would be absolutely massive if we could get to the group stages.

"The backing the fans have given the club in this tough time is fantastic, so it would be pleasing if we could go that one step further and get to the group stages and by then hopefully we can have fans attending those games and it would be fantastic for the whole club.”

Taylor added: "There will be slight advantages for Viking being at home in their environment with no fans. I know the Aberdeen fans like to travel, especially for European games. It's a bit of a toss of a coin for who is favourites because you can never call these European ties. You just have to play the game in front of you and put in a performance that gets you through, especially when it's a one-off.

"But it has helped playing the ties a little bit later. We've got a few games under our belt now, where it used to just be the pre-season. It was fast forwarding and you were in a European tie straightaway and a bit undercooked.

“I am sure the lads are well prepared for it now and we are getting into our stride, which should be good for us.”