Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes expects “whoever’s called upon” to help fire the Reds to a famous European win over Rijeka tonight.
The Croatians visit Pittodrie with a 2-0 lead from last week’s third qualifying round first leg.
Yesterday, McInnes revealed top scorer Sam Cosgrove – who has eight goals in six appearances this term – is ruled out with a hamstring injury, along with midfielder Craig Bryson and centre-back Ash Taylor.
It is now expected former Motherwell striker Curtis Main, who made his first Dons start in the 1-0 away loss to St Mirren on Sunday, will lead the line.
The length of Cosgrove’s recovery is unclear following a scan, but the gaffer revealed the prognosis is better than was feared.
He said: “It’s three important players we need to be without, but we put a squad together to try and deal with that.
“Hopefully we can be strong enough to not be thinking too much about it.
“It (Cosgrove’s hamstring) is not as bad as we maybe feared. We took a bit of comfort from it, but it still wasn’t great reading.
“He’s normally quite a good healer with a lot of his injuries, calves, backs and groins.
“This is the first time he’s had any hamstring issue going on.
“He’s not ruled out of Sunday’s game (in the Betfred Cup against Dundee) yet, but there’s still work to do.”
McInnes hopes Main and winger Connor McLennan’s appearances as he rotated his squad in Paisley will have shaken off any “rustiness” should they be needed tonight.
In addition to Main, James Wilson, Bruce Anderson and the surplus-to-requirements Stevie May are the obvious options up top.
Whoever starts, one thing the manager has demanded after two losses in a week is the return of the attacking threat which peaked in the 5-0 second qualifying round return leg thumping of Georgians Chikhura Sachkhere.
He said: “Curtis and Connor have not had a lot of action once we started competitive games, although they’ve been fit.
“Connor maybe missed the first couple of games, and Curtis missed a game against Peterhead with a thigh strain.
“For those boys who have not been playing as many games (it’s good they’ve had minutes) and maybe Zak (Vyner), there’s a wee bit of rustiness, but they’ll all feel the benefit of the minutes on Sunday.
“Hopefully whoever’s called upon tomorrow, we show far more of ourselves in an attacking sense than we did in Croatia.
“The game demands it and we have to make sure our best players, as good as the back four were for the majority over there – particularly Andy (Considine) and Scott (McKenna) – our best players tomorrow night have to be middle to front, and it’s important everybody contributes and shows that quality.”
Is there real belief in the Dons squad they can overturn a 2-0 first leg loss in Europe for only the second time in their history? The first came in 1984 against Hungary’s Ujpest.
McInnes is adamant Aberdeen know they shouldn’t have conceded twice after the break in Rijeka.
Shay Logan hauled back Luka Capan to give the home team a second half penalty, before Robert Muric made space to fire home late on.
McInnes said: “We’re absolutely confident. We’re full of belief and we have to be.
“We’ve got to ask the question of our opponent.
“It was a tough tie when the draw was made and it’s become even tougher with the scoreline over there.
“There’s a feeling among myself and the players that we’re kicking ourselves we allowed it to get to 2-0, when the majority of the game was played between the 18-yard boxes, with very little going on in the penalty boxes – which as an away team in Europe you’re quite happy with.
“But we allowed the situation to develop with the penalty and the late goal makes it even more difficult.”
He added: “We need to score the first goal.
“It doesn’t need to come in the first minutes.
“It doesn’t even need to come in that opening period – we want it to and we’ll be doing all we can to ask the question.
“But I’m looking at it as two halves of football to go and win – if we can win both halves I think we’ll have every chance. It can instantly become more achievable by getting the first goal.
“The downside is it becomes far more of challenge if we lose a goal.”
McInnes, who is trying to get Aberdeen into the Europa League groups at the sixth time time of asking, having dropped out four times in the third round before, doesn’t expect the “more pragmatic and athletic” Rijeka to open up willingly at Pittodrie.
He thinks Igor Biscan’s team are fundamentally different from the outfit his Dons knocked out of second round qualifying in 2015.
He knows there’ll be no freebies as the Reds search for at least two unanswered goals, which would send the tie to extra-time.
McInnes explained: “They’re different, but equally as good and effective.
“When the team selection came in last week, they’ve a bit more athleticism and physicality about them, which showed in the game.
“The Rijeka team from 2015 were a bit more technical.
“I say that with the greatest respect and don’t want it to be seen (as a criticism).
“They’re a bit more pragmatic and athletic, but as impressive.”
He added: “The onus is on us. They’ll have a counter attacking threat. The possession stats were pretty equal last week.
“I still think they’ll show they’re a possession-based team at the right times, and there’ll be times like that where we have to be measured with our approach.
“We have to make sure they don’t get it all their own way, because we don’t expect to get it our own way for 90 minutes.
“It’s important when we’re on top in the game, we make those moments count.”