Mark Warburton broke bread with Derek McInnes only a matter of months ago as they shared philosophies and thoughts on football but he has every intention of breaking his heart at Pittodrie today.
The Rangers manager has been impressed by the way Aberdeen, with much fewer resources, have mounted a concerted challenge to Celtic in each of the last two seasons.
However, he feels Rangers are edging closer to returning to their best form after an inconsistent start to the Premiership campaign and there would be no better place to illustrate the point than Pittodrie today.
Warburton said: “I met Derek and had lunch with him a short while ago. It was just for a chat really – we were both in Glasgow so decided to meet for a cup of tea.
“We talked a bit about football. He’s a top manager and a top quality coach. It was good to get his perspective on Scottish football. It’s always good to hear that. I know Robbie Neilson, too, and speak to him, so it’s always useful to talk to different managers and hear what they’re thinking.
“I’ve actually met Derek a few times and I’ve a lot of respect for what he’s done. He’s got a high-quality squad and added to it again this season so we know the test we face. The job he’s doing at Aberdeen is first-class.
“Aberdeen have a good squad, unity, and enjoy European football like everyone else. So there are a lot of positives and qualities within their squad.
“We are well aware of the venue and the warmth of reception we will likely get. I’ve been told by everyone all about it. But we’re looking forward to what we know will be a tough game.
“I signed Shay Logan and Niall McGinn for Brentford so I know those two guys. They are two very talented players. I know a few of the young boys that Derek has brought on as it’s important to have your eye on the network and what’s going on.”
Warburton has spoken glowingly of how the return of Jason Holt has revitalised Rangers.
He said: “Jason gives you an energy. You look at his stats – he covers 13-14km a game. He works so hard on and off the ball, he gets beyond the striker and he scores goals.
“We never doubted for one second that we would miss him when he was out and that’s been proven now that he’s back.
“He’s constantly moving. He’s always creating space, offering angles and options. That’s the sign of a good quality player. We’ve got good players in the squad but he’s one of those that provides a different perspective to our game.”