Evening Express

Dons McKenna set to tick off another milestone in meteoric ascent against Prem’s Burnley

Aberdeen's Scott McKenna returned to action following a six month absence due to a hamstring tear.

Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna will tonight secure another landmark in his stellar rise with a Euro debut – and aims to mark it with a vital home clean sheet.

The centre-back will feature in a European tie for the first time when he lines up against Burnley in the Europa League second qualifying round first leg tie at Pittodrie.

In a remarkable breakthrough 12 months McKenna has captained Scotland, signed two new contracts until 2023 and saw the Reds reject a bid from Hull in excess of £1 million for him

Tonight, against the Premier League Clarets, he will add European football to that list.

The 21-year-old may be a Euro rookie but he acknowledges the importance of not conceding an away goal at a packed Pittodrie.

He said: “If we want to give ourselves the best chance we need to keep a clean sheet at home.

“If you don’t then you need to score two goals to overcome that. It is not like a normal situation where if you concede at home and then score for 1-1 it is all square.

“That is not the case as your opponent has that advantage with the away goal.

“That is something we really need to focus on and try to make sure we get that clean sheet at Pittodrie.”

For McKenna the Battle of Britain offers an opportunity to prove the strength of the Scottish game to any doubters in England.

He said: “Maybe south of the border they don’t realise how good the standard is.

“This is a chance for us to go and really showcase ourselves and put in two good performances against good opposition.”

Burnley’s pre-match preparations were thrown into chaos as their chartered flight to the Granite City was delayed due to technical issues with their aeroplane.

McKenna does not anticipate any delay in the Premier League outfit delivering the ball into the Reds’ box.

“By all account Burnley like to get the ball forward early, which is something we will have to deal with,” he said.

“Burnley are maybe not your typical English team that puts in abut 50 passes and then gets a cross in the box.

“They might try and go direct.

“Whatever way they come at us we will be ready for any situation.”

Dons boss Derek McInnes was at Deepdale earlier this week to watch Burnley defeat Preston North End 3-2.

He has formulated a game plan for tonight that McKenna insists can pay off if the Reds, to a man, carry it out.

He said: “We are expecting a very good team as Burnley didn’t finish seventh in the English Premier League last season for no reason.

“We will need to show them respect but go into the game fully prepared.

“The manager has got us fully set up on what he wants us to be and if we carry that out we will give ourselves a chance.”

McInnes secured Watford centre-back Tommie Hoban on loan yesterday before the 11pm UEFA deadline to register new signings.

However, the central defensive partnership is likely to be McKenna and Mikey Devlin, who played together in the 1-1 friendly draw with West Brom on Friday.

McKenna said: “We are strong at the back now.

“The West Brom game was a good test for us and bar the goal they didn’t really have a shot on target.

“We were quite solid.

“Andy (Considine) is available after his concussion so there is a lot of strength and experience in the defence.”

The closest McKenna, who captained Scotland against Mexico this summer, has come to Euro action so far was a place on the bench in the 1-1 draw against Bosnian’s Siroki Brijeg at Pittodrie last season. Now he is one of the first names on McInnes’ starting team sheet.

He said: “European football is something that I have always wanted to be involved in.

“I had been on the bench once before in Europe so to get my first appearance would be brilliant.”

Burnley finished seventh in the English top flight to qualify for Europe.

That surprise high league finish secured a Premier League payment of £198m. The bookmakers rate Burnley favourites to progress to set up a third qualifying round clash with Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir.

However, despite the Dons’ underdog status, McKenna’s aspirations for his debut campaign at European level have not altered.

Asked if the group stages remain the target, he replied: “Yes, definitely.

“However, we will take it game by game – starting with Burnley at Pittodrie.

“First of all we need to try to get a clean sheet and a positive result to take down to Turf Moor next week.

“We need to get through this round first and if do that the next one will take care of itself.”