Captain Joe Lewis has challenged Aberdeen to use the underdog tag as motivation to deliver a European shock in Lisbon.
The Dons are ranked 8-1 outsiders by bookmakers to overcome Sporting in the Europa League third qualifying round clash tonight.
Lewis is ready to defy the odds with a result which would rank as one of the best in his career to book a play-off spot.
Keeper Lewis said: “Sporting are favourites for this game I am sure, but we will use that as motivation ourselves and enjoy being the underdogs.
“Everybody knows Sporting’s name and they have a great history in Europe.
“It is a club everybody sits up and takes notice of.
“The tie is also at their stadium, which after training last night looks incredible.
“Their stadium has hosted big games in the past and it is one we are all looking forward to, although we know how difficult a challenge it will be.”
Sporting’s preparations for tonight’s tie were thrown into chaos by a coronavirus outbreak, with nine players and manager Ruben Amorim testing positive.
All are self-isolating and will be unavailable. The normally hostile 50,090-capacity Jose Alvalade stadium will also be empty as the tie is behind closed doors.
He said: “They have had one or two difficulties of their own at their club.
“I don’t know how it has affected them, so it is difficult for me to comment on how their preparation has been.
“Playing in front of supporters would have been incredible I am sure and it would have been better for the players to play in such a big atmosphere.
“There is no crowd unfortunately and we need to get on with it, although I am not sure how that affects them.
“Sporting haven’t played a game yet, although I am sure they will have played warm-up games and friendlies in the build-up in empty stadiums, so I am sure it won’t be too difficult for them.”
Captain Lewis will lead the Reds out tonight in one of the club’s biggest European ties of the last decade.
He is under no illusion as to the magnitude of the game, the opponent nor the reward.
Asked if victory would be a career high, he said: “It would be right up there.
“We still would have another statement to get to the group stages.
“It will be very tough, but in isolation the game is a one-off for everyone. For a lot of the lads it will be one of the biggest names they have played against. We are all looking forward to it.”
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Aberdeen have yet to progress beyond the third qualifying round in the seven years of Derek McInnes’ management.
Awaiting the winner is a one-legged play off against LASK of Austria or Slovakia’s Dunajska Streda at Pittodrie next week.
Lewis warned there can be no passengers in Lisbon if that dream is to become a reality.
He said: “We know everybody needs to be on their game.
“I remember winning down at Celtic Park a couple of years ago and everybody had to get eight or nine out of 10 and that is what it takes to win a game like this, we can’t have any passengers.”
Aberdeen go into tonight’s tie minus Scotland defender Scott McKenna following his £3m move to Nottingham Forest on the eve of the match.
McKenna was withdrawn from the squad on Sunday to travel south to England for talks.
In his absence, the Reds’ six-game winning streak ended with a shock 3-0 loss to Motherwell.
Lewis insists that was a wake-up call and urged McKenna’s replacement to make their mark in Lisbon.
He said: “Scott has been brilliant for us and we wish him well, but we have to look forward.
“We’ve got other players who can step in and need to be ready to step in. We were surprised by the performance we put in against Motherwell.
“It was a wake up call. We had poor performances from myself and throughout the team, which we weren’t happy with, but that’s an isolated game and we need to look forward.
“This game against Sporting is a brilliant night for that.”