Dons boss Derek McInnes hopes a week in the heat of Dubai with some intensive physiotherapy can accelerate Stevie May’s recovery from an ankle injury.
McInnes wants the Middle East winter training camp to propel the £400,000 summer signing into contention for the Scottish Cup game against St Mirren next Saturday.
However, the Dons gaffer will not gamble on the striker’s long-term fitness by rushing him back and will only put May into the cup squad if he is fully recovered.
The Scotland cap has been training separately from the rest of the squad here in Dubai.
May and recent signing Niall McGinn have been working closely with the Reds’ physios alongside Graeme Kirk, the club’s head of sport science and fitness, at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence.
McGinn, who penned a deal until 2021, is working towards regaining his match fitness having undergone a hernia operation early last month.
May missed the final three games before the winter break having suffered repercussions following a red-card challenge from former Dons skipper Ryan Jack in the 2-1 loss to Rangers.
Although the striker featured in two games after sustaining that injury, the severity of the bruising continued to impede the 24-year-old.
Both May and Northern Ireland cap McGinn are set to sit out tomorrow’s friendly against Lokomotiv Tashkent of Uzbekistan at the training complex.
However, McInnes is hopeful soaking up the sun and receiving one-to-one rehab work will ensure they both win the battle to face St Mirren in the cup.
He said: “We want to get Stevie back fully fit but we have to be fair to both the team and him.
“What we don’t want to do is get Stevie back and then he goes out again.
“Hopefully, giving him the right time to heal and recover from the injury will work out.
“Stevie is doing work with the physio and both he and Niall are not joining in with the full squad at the minute.
“The hope is to get them more integrated into the team out here.
“Hopefully, being out in Dubai and getting 24-hour attention will accelerate that rehabilitation.
“Neither of them are likely to take part in the game tomorrow.
“However, Niall is slightly ahead of Stevie.
“It is too early to tell but hopefully they can both be involved for the St Mirren game.”
May suffered extreme bone bruising as a result of the challenge from Jack on December 3.
He missed the next game and, although he returned for two matches, McInnes admitted that, despite scans confirming there was no bone damage, there were still concerns over his ankle.
Those fears proved right when he was ruled out of the final three games before the Premiership shutdown.
It was the latest injury set-back for May, who was sidelined for 18 months with a career-threatening knee injury while at Preston North End.
May bust three knee ligaments in a game against Fulham in 2015 and was warned he might never play again.
On May’s current ankle injury, McInnes said: “We were always a bit concerned about the injury and when we got Stevie scanned there was no structural damage.
“What has been clear is that the impact has really impeded him as there is severe bone bruising.
“He has taken a real dunt and it has flared up the whole area.
“We had been trying to manage his training schedule to get him out there playing, but it was becoming clear it was becoming more of a concern.”
McInnes has opted to play a friendly while out in the Middle East and the Reds will face the Uzbek top-flight champions.
The Dons gaffer reckons it is vital to have a game, even a friendly, to tail-end the week-long training camp.
However, his main priority is that the Dons do not pick up any additional injuries tomorrow with a pivotal week coming up where they face Rangers at Ibrox four days after the Scottish Cup tie.
He said: “We want to make sure we come back from Dubai without any fresh injuries.
“When you’ve got an opportunity of a game at the end of a training camp, it’s important as you don’t want to be training for training’s sake. It is good for the players to have worked towards that game this week.
“Although it’s only a friendly we still want to make sure it’s a competitive enough game.
“It’s important that we are more game-ready for the St Mirren game and hopefully we can enjoy the experience.”
Lokomotiv Tashkent secured the Uzbek top-flight title in November by eight points and have not played since a 3-2 win over Bunyodkor on November 25.
They secured the Uzbek league and cup double for the second year in succession and are in Dubai to prepare for next month’s Asian Champions League group stages.
Two seasons ago they progressed to the Champions League group stages.
Meticulous in his planning for every match, even a friendly, McInnes has watched Tashkent training at the Jebel Ali facility.
He said: “It will be a tough game tomorrow, but hopefully it will be a tough game for them.
“The important thing is getting the players fired up and up to speed with the Scottish Cup tie in mind.
“I watched a bit of their training on Wednesday morning and they are very similar to the Uzbekistan team we played last year (2-1 defeat of Bunyodkor).
“Lokomotiv Tashkent handle the ball well and have a good size about them, so they’ll be a formidable opponent.”