Dons boss Derek McInnes has hailed the return of Scott McKenna for Sunday’s League Cup semi-final.
The centre-back has missed Aberdeen’s last two matches through suspension but is available for Sunday’s last-four clash with Rangers.
McKenna had to sit out the 4-1 win over St Mirren and the 2-1 loss to Hearts after being hit with a retrospective SFA ban for a challenge on Odsonne Edouard during the 1-0 defeat to Celtic on September 29.
McInnes is delighted to have the Scotland international back for this weekend. The Pittodrie gaffer is also confident McKenna will be up to speed because during his ban he played for Scotland in the defeat to Israel in the UEFA Nations League on October 11 and in the friendly against Portugal three days later.
McInnes said: “It’s huge that Scott is back. We feel as though we have been without him for the majority of the season through injury and then through suspension. He’s now free from suspension and, thankfully, he had a couple of involvements in the games with Scotland to keep his eye in and keep his match sharpness.
“Like any team, you want your key players to be fit and available and, thankfully, we’ve got him now.”
After breaking into the Aberdeen team in September last year, McKenna has become a mainstay not only for the Dons but also Scotland.
McInnes believes it shows his ability that he has been able to maintain the high standards he set after first featuring for the Reds.
He added: “He’s important to Scotland and he’s important to us.
“That is testament to his consistency really, a lot of young players can be very good.
“But to sustain that can be difficult and he’s managed to do exactly that which is good.”
Two players McKenna won’t have to worry about marking on Sunday are Gers strikers Alfredo Morelos and Kyle Lafferty.
The Colombian is suspened while the Northern Irishman is cup-tied.
However, McInnes believes that the Govan team will find a way to cope without the pair – which means the Dons will have to defend well.
McInnes said: “With the squad they’ve got there, I’m sure they’ll find a way to cope with it.
“Morelos in particular is having a fantastic season, the assists and goals he’s had already would indicate that.
“Teams need to find a way to deal with that and teams with bigger squads normally do.”
Sunday’s fixture will be Steven Gerrard’s first semi-final as Rangers manager.
McInnes respects the job the former Liverpool and England captain has done at Ibrox, but is hoping to stop him reaching his first cup final in Scotland.
McInnes said: “It’s clear that he has done a very good job and he has assembled a very strong squad.
“Rangers have always had big squads in recent years, but the quality of their squad has been far better.
“Obviously, they have the benefit of some momentum with how well they have done in Europe.
“The supporters are enjoying what they are seeing, it’s something for them to believe in.
“In a short period of time, he has managed to get everybody feeling more positive.
“They deserve credit for that – but as strong as the squad is he can only play 11.
“Hopefully, my 11 will be better than his on Sunday.”