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Reaching Europa League group stages would feel like a win – Derek McInnes

Aberdeen v Celtic – Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership – Pittodrie Stadium
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Derek McInnes believes the group stages of the Europa League has to be the target for Aberdeen this season.

The Dons start their European campaign after just three Premiership matches with a one-legged qualifier against Faroese side NSI Runavik at Pittodrie on Thursday night.

The Aberdeen boss outlined the benefits of reaching the competition proper which will require three qualifiers and a play-off.

McInnes said: “We know we are not going to win the tournament but getting to the group stage would feel like a win all round.

“Financially it is a win-win. The financial gain that we can get in this difficult time for the club would be massive.

“The regard and respect you get from qualifying for the group stage would be massive.

“There is the experience we can all gain from that, players, staff and supporters, hopefully be back in the ground for that time. It is certainly what we are striving for.

“There is an argument that domestically it could impact.

“Bigger clubs with far bigger riches than us domestically have suffered when they have gone into group stages with the amount of games but we would rather deal with that problem at the time and get to the group stages.

“To me, it would feel like winning something tangible, getting to the group stages and it would be up there with anything that we have done domestically if we can do that.”

McInnes, though, is wary of the one-legged nature of the tie against a side who are 17 games into their season and who hammered Barry Town United 5-1 in their preliminary tie.

He said: “I do think a 90-minute tie will always favour the underdog. We are hoping we can get through this tie as the favourites.

“But when it is 90 minutes rather than 180 minutes obviously the opportunity to put the game at risk is there. So we have to make sure we are on it from the start with a solid, professional performance and deal with them as best we can.

“We are aware that they have some very good players, they are a possession-based team, a very confident team and experienced.

“But hopefully we can show that we are good enough, even at this stage of the season, to get through.”

McInnes stressed the importance of focusing solely on the game ahead of Friday’s Scottish Football Association disciplinary hearing involving eight of his players and a breach of Covid-19 protocol.

Dylan McGeouch, Mikey Devlin, Scott McKenna, Craig Bryson, Jonny Hayes, Sam Cosgrove, Bruce Anderson and Matty Kennedy were served notices of complaint for breaking disciplinary rules 24 and 71 following a night out in Aberdeen city centre.

McInnes said: “We will deal with Friday when it comes along.

“The club will give a strong defence of what has happened, give our version of events but that is something we can’t control. We can respond and react to whatever is decided on Friday.”