McInnes wants Dons to warm up for Kilmarnock cup clash by turning on style in Premiership battles

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes.

Boss Derek McInnes today challenged the Dons to go into their Scottish Cup quarter-final on a high by flying in the Premiership race.

Aberdeen host Kilmarnock on the weekend of March 3 in the quarter-finals with a berth at Hampden up for grabs.

Before that last eight showdown the Reds have three games in a Premiership race where they are just eight points behind leaders and defending champions Celtic.

Crucially one of those games is against Celtic, at Pittodrie on Sunday, February 25.

The Reds have romped into the quarters with comfortable wins over Dundee United (4-2) and St Mirren (4-1) and McInnes is determined to keep that momentum going.

He said: “The cup run is something that we can hopefully use towards our league form.

“We have a few league games now before the tie against Kilmarnock and hopefully we can bring that level of performance knowing the cup game is waiting for us.”

McInnes is well aware a successful cup run can yield financial benefits for the Dons.

However, he is more concerned with delivering the club’s first Scottish Cup triumph since 1990 after coming so close last season in losing the final 2-1 to Celtic after an injury-time goal.

McInnes said: “There is nothing like a really good cup run for loads of reasons. There is the opportunity to build momentum, build confidence and there is also the financial part.

“But importantly it is the chance to bring success our way. There is a natural appeal to do well in the Scottish Cup and hopefully we can have a really good campaign.”

Before the quarter-final tie against in-form Kilmarnock, McInnes’ Reds face a tasty treble of Premiership clashes against Hibs (a), Celtic (h) and Motherwell (a).

This time last season the gap on Celtic was 24 points – now it is only eight.

Aberdeen also occupy second spot with a three-point advantage over Rangers, despite losing all three games to the Ibrox club this season.

When quizzed about a potential title challenge, McInnes said: “We just look as far as winning the next game.

“We have 12 games to try to win as many as possible.

“And we will finish where we deserve to finish.”

Yet McInnes reckons it is testament to a squad restructured in the summer that the Reds are in the mix with the Glasgow two, despite their superior finances.

Rangers splashed £8 million last summer strengthening the squad, while last week Celtic announced a £10m revenue increase in the six-monthly interim report to December 31, 2017 – leaving the Hoops with £30.9m cash in the bank.

Celtic’s revenue rose by nearly 17% to £71.5m.

The Hoops paid £4.5m for Manchester City midfielder Olivier Ntcham in the summer and landed Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes for £1.3m.

McInnes said: “For us to be judged alongside Rangers and Celtic, considering the difference in resources, is credit to the players.

“That is where we are judged on against those types of teams.

“We came runners-up to Celtic in all competitions last season and we gave a good account of ourselves in all cup competitions

“In the League Cup final (3-0 loss) we didn’t put in a performance and Celtic won it very comfortably. But in the Scottish Cup final we were in it right up until the 93rd minute when (Tom) Rogic scored the winning goal.

“It shows what can be done and how close we can come.

“We were up against a very formidable Celtic team and one that went on to break domestic records.”

Should the Dons defeat Kilmarnock next month they will secure a fifth appearance at Hampden in 18 months.

McInnes insists that previous experience can only aid the bid for silverware.

He said: “If we can get to Hampden again we can be more adept at dealing with those situations and hopefully win a trophy.

“We will try to work through the experience, good and bad, of the final to make sure we are better next time.

“But what the chance of Hampden does is whet the appetite of the players.”

Aberdeen coasted through to the quarters by outgunning Dundee United 4-2.

In-form Aberdeen have netted 14 goals in the last four games – all victories.

McInnes was frustrated at conceding two goals.

He said: “Other than a moment of slackness, we were maybe worthy of more than a two-goal advantage at half-time.

“At 4-1 we weren’t going to lose from there, but we were disappointed in the way we lost the goal.

“Shay (Logan) tried to go on an overlap and I thought it was a brilliant finish from McMullan, who helped them when he came on.

“Credit to United, at least they kept us on our toes.

“The game wasn’t straightforward, but I thought we were well worthy winners and fantastic in certain points in the game.”