McInnes – Strong squad can allow Aberdeen to shine without influential skipper Shinnie

Graeme Shinnie, left, in action.

Boss Derek McInnes is confident the Dons will deal with the loss of Graeme Shinnie.

Influential captain Shinnie is suspended for an upcoming crunch Premiership double header.

The 26-year-old is ruled out of Saturday’s trip to Hibs and will also miss the Pittodrie clash with league leaders Celtic on Sunday, February 25.

Aberdeen are just eight points behind the defending champions.

McInnes admits Shinnie’s absence is a major blow but has challenged his replacement to step up to the mark.

He said: “Shinnie is a big part of us but it is a consequence of the bookings, so we have to deal with it.

“That is why we put a strong squad together.

“I would be wrong to say I would not rather have him for those games.

“However, the squad are looking strong now – and we will need that.

“The whole squad will be utilised.”

Shinnie is the most booked player in the Premiership and has picked up 13 yellow cards this season.

Defender Andy Considine picked up a suspension for the Scottish Cup quarter-finals having received a booking in the 4-2 fifth round win over Dundee United.

McInnes is delighted that he has a full squad to call upon with keeper Joe Lewis the only long-term injury absentee.

Lewis is out for up to two months having recently undergone knee ligament surgery.

Striker Stevie May has missed the last five games with an ankle injury but is on schedule to return into contention for the Hibs match.

McInnes said: “It has been a busy training pitch which is great to see.

“It gives me the additional headache when it comes to selecting the starting team but also the squad for the A team.

“It is great that players are pushing each other on at the moment.

“When you see the strength of the squad and the numbers we have, it gives me every encouragement for the remainder of the season.”

Shinnie picked up his 13th booking of the campaign in the win over United at the weekend.

McInnes praised the Scotland squad player for his contribution in the New Firm derby.

He said: “Our energy in the middle of the park was great as Shinnie, Ryan Christie and Kenny McLean were outstanding.”

Celtic remain within Aberdeen’s sights with just 12 games remaining.

The Pittodrie boss and his squad are refusing to make any bold statements about a potential title tilt although the next two league games, without Shinnie, will be pivotal to any hopes.

McInnes said: “We just look as far as winning the next game.

“There are 12 games and 36 points remaining, so there is no real room for error.

“We still have Celtic, Hearts and Hibs to play twice and Rangers once.

“There are some brilliant games there and those clashes will decide a lot of where the shake-up is.

“Celtic are still the team everyone has to try to catch.

“Only if Celtic fall way below their standards will it give any team, including ourselves, any encouragement.

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

Meanwhile Aberdeen’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Kilmarnock has been confirmed for Saturday March 3 at 3pm.

It is the only quarter-final that will not be televised.

Holders Celtic host Greenock Morton on Saturday March 3 at 12.30pm live on Sky Sports.

Motherwell welcome Hearts on Sunday March 4 at 2.15pm live live on BBC Scotland while Rangers’ Ibrox clash with Falkirk at 4.15pm on Sunday will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.