The New Saints have trained in Macedonia's national stadium ahead of their tricky Champions League qualifier with KF Shkendija this evening, with the club in hopeful mood ahead of their 19th consecutive European campaign.

TNS have competed in European competition every year since the turn of the millennium, but have failed to reach the group stages on each occasion, getting as far as the third qualifying round in 2010 before a 6-1 aggregate defeat to Anderlecht ended the dream.

Saints chairman Mike Harris reckons TNS have reasons for optimism this year, with the club fielding what he believes could be the "best side we've ever had".

"We go into this with full confidence," he said.

"I think we've recruited well in the summer, with some great young players we've signed as wel as one or two with some experience, and the new signings, if they live up to their full potential, this will be the best side we've ever had."

"That's been our whole ambition to progress in the champions league or the Europa League and represent Wales in the group stages, and that's been the ambition of this club since I've been involved."

County Times: Greg Draper of TNS trains in Macedonia

Saints midfielder Aeron Edwards said the club was setting their sights on progressing in the competition but admitted the Welsh champions had a difficult task ahead.

"You've always got to set your ambition high you know, it's very difficult to get to that [group] stage but anything's possible," said 30-year-old midfielder Aeron Edwards.

"You need the luck of the draw sometimes but you never know in football."

After arriving in Skopje over the weekend, the players trained on the pitch at the 33,000 capacity Philip II National Arena last night ahead of this evening's clash, which kicks off at 8.15pm local time.

The winners will face Torpedo Kutaisi from Georgia or FC Sheriff of Moldova in the second round of qualifying ties will be played on July 24 and July 31.

County Times: TNS boss Scott Ruscoe

Saints boss Scott Ruscoe says he's done his homework ahead of this evening's tie, the first encounter in a two-legged affair which will see the second leg played at Park Hall next week.

"After seeing the draw and the five teams we ultimately could have drawn, then they are the second toughest after NK Olimpija Ljubljana from Slovenia, who were the biggest team we could have drawn," he said.

"We’ve been planning and looking at highlights to assess their strengths and weaknesses. They won the league by 35 points, scoring 101 goals and they’re full of internationals.

"They’re going to be very strong and they’re used to winning. "

Tonight's game kicks off in Macedonia at 7.15pm, while the second leg will take place at Park Hall on Tuesday, July 17.