Aberdeen boss McInnes: Kilmarnock will be desperate for Europe spot, but it’s in our hands
Boss Derek McInnes is confident the injury-hit Dons are still strong enough to secure European qualification.
And now he has challenged them to prove that by taking a massive step to Euro action by seeing off rivals Kilmarnock at Rugby Park today.
He said: “Europe is in our own hands and we have a team capable of getting the results we need.
“We have work to do to achieve European football again.
“European football is very important to us.
“We are a club that missed out on European football for a long time and have managed to secure it every year since.
“It is important that we recognise that Kilmarnock, Hibs and Hearts have not had much experience of Europe in the last wee while so they will be absolutely bursting to get that Euro spot.
“We have challengers now for that final European position.
“It’s important we try to get the wins and the points required to make sure we guarantee European football.
“I’ve every confidence we can do it even though we have a lot of injuries at the minute.”
McInnes will be in the dug-out at Rugby Park today despite being served with a notice of complaint by the SFA following his sending-off in the Scottish Cup semi-final loss to Celtic.
The Dons manager admitted in the aftermath of the 3-0 loss to Celtic that the dismissal came following his reaction to sectarian chants from Celtic fans.
The notice of complaint was issued as McInnes has allegedly breached disciplinary rule 203 – no member of team staff shall commit misconduct at a match.
McInnes has until Thursday April 25 to respond to the issue with a principal hearing date set for Friday May 3.
However, Aberdeen assistant Tony Docherty will not be in the dug-out at Rugby Park as he has accepted a fixed offer of a one-match suspension for being sent off at Hampden.
Aberdeen FC opted not to comment on the notice of complaint issued to McInnes.
However, prior to the notice being issued, in the build-up to today’s Kilmarnock game, McInnes had called for more leadership from Scottish football authorities to deal with sectarianism.
He said: “I don’t think anyone should have to put up with it.
“I’ve now got involved in it.
“If I don’t react, it probably doesn’t even get mentioned.
“That’s the truth of the matter.
“I think we can put structures and rules in place and be more forceful with repeat offenders.
“It is not to say it is a worthless, hopeless cause but we need leadership to deal with this.
“That is everywhere with people who can affect the change and implement the sanctions and punishments that need to be given out.”
Ahead of Aberdeen solely on goal difference, Kilmarnock occupy the third spot in the Premiership that brings automatic qualification for Europe.
A potential route into the Europa League qualifiers comes if Celtic retain the Scottish Cup.
However, McInnes wants to secure European qualification for a sixth successive season by securing third.
Aberdeen’s post-split cause has been hit by a number of injuries with Niall McGinn suffering a season-ending snapped ankle tendon in training on the day before the Scottish Cup semi.
Right-back Shaleum Logan is also sidelined having undergone ankle surgery in February and winger Gary Mackay-Steven is out, also with an ankle injury.
Midfielder Lewis Ferguson will miss Kilmarnock as he serves out a one-game suspension for a straight red in the semi.
The 19-year-old will also be suspended for the first Scottish Cup tie of next season.
Defender Dom Ball was sent off at Hampden for a second yellow but is free to play today. Ball will only be suspended for next season’s first Scottish Cup tie.
McInnes said: “The squad is really stretched and we also have a couple of doubts for Kilmarnock.”
After the disappointment of the bid for a first Scottish Cup since 1990 ending so badly, McInnes has urged his squad to pick themselves up for one last push in the post-split fixtures.
“We will take the hit from the semi-final and go again,” added McInnes.
“It is important that we respond with the energy and enthusiasm to do that.
“The season does not finish there and we still have five post-split games to go.”
Aberdeen face a Kilmarnock side so revitalised under the guidance of Steve Clarke the Rugby Park boss is one of the front-runners to replace axed Alex McLeish as Scotland boss.
McInnes said: “With five games to go this is an important fixture. Kilmarnock are a good side and we are going to have to play well to maintain our good record against them.
“They will be desperate to get that Euro spot as well.
“We have a tough job on our hands but have high expectations of ourselves.”