‘Celtic see it is a big game and the motivation to slap us down’ says Derek McInnes as clash looms

Derek McInnes wants his team to lay down a marker against Celtic

Despite nine straight defeats to Celtic boss Derek McInnes is convinced his Dons side have the self belief that they can defeat the defending champions.

Aberdeen host the league leaders tomorrow in a game of enormous significance not just for the Reds but for Scottish football.

Victory for the Dons would slash Celtic’s Premiership lead to six points and just may be the catalyst for a late title scrap.

The pendulum could swing wildly the other way if they slump to a 10th straight loss as the Reds may lose valuable ground for second and Europe.

High stakes and little margin for error.

McInnes reckons Celtic raise their game against Aberdeen as it is the opportunity to “slap down” the team who have been their closest rivals in recent years.

Now he wants the Reds to land a blow to a Celtic rocking after their midweek Europa League elimination by landing a first win over the Hoops since a 2-1 triumph on February 3, 2016.

He said: “We all want to beat Celtic but it is all right wanting to do it – we have to make sure we go out there to set about to try to achieve that.

“These games have always been first against second so right away Celtic see it is a big game and the motivation to slap us down.

“We all recognise that when Celtic are at their best they are difficult to overcome.

“The importance for us is to bring a level of performance that is on such a good level it asks the question of Celtic.

“We will go into the game having that belief and attitude that it is one we can win.”

Aberdeen lost all six games last season to Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops including the League Cup and Scottish Cup finals. That barren run has continued this term with both games delivering defeats.

McInnes has tried different systems and different line-ups but has yet to get that elusive victory over Rodgers.

To say the recent record against the league leaders does not sit well with the Pittodrie gaffer is an understatement.

Aberdeen came agonisingly close to ending that run in the biggest game of them all – the Scottish Cup final last May, only for an injury-time Tom Rogic goal to seal Celtic the treble and cement that Invincibles tag.

For McInnes the key to overcoming the Hoops is concentration and being clinical with any opportunities.

“Some jobs and some tasks are more difficult than others,” he said.

“We have tried different ways and lost two cup finals against them in the nine games we have not managed to get a result.

“We all recognise that when Celtic are at their best they are difficult to overcome.

“A lot of the time you can set up the team and you recognise the quality of the opposition.

“You have got to make sure that balance between defending and attack is there.

“What the game also needs is a good high level of individual performance and a high level of concentration.

“Being clinical in moments of the game but having that concentration and determination not to allow Celtic to enjoy the game

“They have good players who can cause problems if allowed to enjoy the game.”

Celtic arrived back in Scotland from their Europa League clash against Zenit St Petersburg yesterday morning.

McInnes doesn’t care if the jaunt to Russia has an adverse affect or the Euro exit galvanises the Hoops.

All he is concerned about is his own team.

Asked if the tie in Russia could be a factor, he said: “Who knows.

“Physically I think they will be used to that.

“I think Celtic are the team most adept to deal with that and utilise their squad.

“If they came back from Russia after a winning performance they would be bouncing into Aberdeen.

“The fact they lost and were put out of Europe I can only imagine that would refocus them.

“Whatever the way they are is not my own concern – my concern is my own team.”

Aberdeen host the league leaders on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Hibs where McInnes admits the Easter Road club “murdered” them in the second half. He said: “We have looked at last week’s performance and reflected on that – but also made sure the focus is on Celtic.”

Skipper Graeme Shinnie is suspended and on-loan Celtic attacker Ryan Christie is out as he is ineligible to face his parent club due to the terms of his loan deal.

McInnes said: “They are both players that we have been reliant on and they are key players for us.

“In an ideal world we would have both available but unfortunately we don’t.

“Their disappointment is other people’s opportunity.”

McInnes confirmed former Celt Tony Watt is training at Pittodrie purely to keep his fitness up. Watt, 24, was recently released by Belgian side OH Leuven.