23 Feb Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes preparing to face Celtic’s strongest side once again
Derek McInnes says his Aberdeen players should take it as a compliment that they always face Celtic’s strongest line-up.
The Dons have lost nine straight games against the Hoops – including all eight clashes with Brendan Rodgers as Parkhead boss.
The Northern Irishman left sections of the Celts faithful upset when he made seven changes for last week’s 1-1 draw with St Johnstone.
But McInnes defended his team’s nightmare record against the champions by insisting they never get the chance to take on Rodgers’ second string because they command too much respect from their rivals.
“It’s been difficult as during my time at St Johnstone and then my first few years here we managed to beat Celtic a few times,” said the Pittodrie boss, who will be looking to claim just his sixth victory from 30 clashes when the Reds host Rodgers’ team on Sunday.
“But it’s nine games now (since we last beat them) I’ve been reminded.
“A couple of those have been cup finals but all the rest have been first-against-second, so they have been real meaningful games.
“Celtic treat those games the way they should be treated. They are normally at full tilt in terms of team selection. You see some team selections against other teams (which are not so strong). That’s not a criticism, that’s just the way it is. They are utilising their squad.
“But against us they make sure their big players are always on the pitch. They always make sure they have a fully motivated performance because they see the importance of the game as normally we’re their closest rivals.
“It’s them trying to give us a slap down and win the game – that in turn makes it a bit more difficult for our players.
“But our players should relish the challenge of that and the responsibility of trying to get the points for Aberdeen.
“They should take it as a compliment, recognise that Celtic will be strong when we play them and try to use it to drive them on to get a strong individual performance.”
The Dons are looking to bounce back after being outshone by Hibernian last week.
But McInnes is not convinced his side will have the upper hand after watching the Hoops freeze against Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday night as their Europa League ambitions were shattered by the Russians.
He said: “Celtic still haven’t lost too many domestically although they have had a few draws.
“They are nine points ahead of us and I still think they have the strongest squad in the league.
“They are used to the schedule of going away to Europe and lifting themselves when they come back.
“I don’t think there is ever a better time to face Celtic. You have to realise you are facing a team that is setting out to win.”