Dundalk boss Filippo Giovagnoli believes their Europa League qualifier against Sheriff Tiraspol can change the fortunes of the club's season and turn it into an historic one.

It has been largely a year to forget at Oriel Park with a poor run of form seeing them slip 15 points off the pace of Shamrock Rovers in the SSE Airtricity League title race, albeit with two games in hand still to play.

Nevertheless victory at the SC Sheriff Stadium tonight (kick-off 7pm Irish time) would leave the Lilywhites just 90 minutes away from a return to the Europa League group stages with a home tie to follow against either KÍ Klaksvik from the Faroe Islands or Dinamo Tbilisi of Georgia.

While not looking too far ahead, Giovagnoli is well aware of the implications winning in Moldova could have on the club and its players.

"It's huge," said the Italian.

"We have to be honest, this is the game that can change a season. It can make this season unbelievable for them. Not for us because we're only here a month but for them it can be an historic game.

"We know that but we cannot panic. We have to stay focused and prepare well."

That said, the 49-year-old has been busy studying Zoran Zekić's side and is well aware that they will get nothing easy in Tiraspol this week.

"We've watched many of their games already and they're a very good team," he said.

Dundalk left Dublin airport for Moldova on Tuesday

"Individually they're really good. Every player is good technically but I think they're a little bit of a different team to when they play in Europe compared to their own league, so we'll have to see what our game plan is. This is going to be a real challenge but it'll be nice to face them because we can see where we're at as well."

Striker Anatole Abang, who was sent off against Qarabag in Sheriff's Champions League defeat last month, departed the club recently having scored five and assisted three goals in the club's opening eight league games this season. While he will be a miss, Giovagnoli - who replaced Vinny Perth as interim head coach last month - said Sheriff had other players capable of stepping up.

"Without Abang, the team is different because he was a target for them. He can really make a difference.

"Even if you sent him a ball from 60 yards, he can take the ball on the ground and destroy everyone but without him they have different characteristics. Now they have more technique so they combine more and have more attacking players that can create problems. The team looks a little bit different.

"Is it better or is it not? We don't know but we're prepared to play them without Abang. They bought another two players when he left, Dos Santos from AZ Alkmaar and another player from Greece (Dimitris Kolovos) who is an international player. They're both really skillful players but completely different to Abang. We've done a lot of research, even individually for players, so we know what the challenge is and it's a big challenge. Really big. These players have a lot of quality and are really skillful so we will need to be prepared."

While Sheriff have won 10 matches from 10 at the start of this season domestically and conceded just twice, Giovagnoli feels they are a different proposition in Europe.

"In the league every year for them is a home run. They do what they want. They play as they want and they play with real confidence," he said.

"In Europe, I saw a different team I have to be honest. I watched the Qarabag and Fola Esch games and they're different, so let's see how they play against us. I think they're going to respect us and if they don't, that's better for us."

With Andy Boyle suspended following his harsh dismissal in Andorra, Giovagnoli will be forced into at least one change from last week's 1-0 win over Inter Club d'Escaldes. Dane Massey is out following a hip operation but Patrick McEleney, who welcomed new baby Conlaoth into the world on Monday, is back in the squad following injury.