ABERDEEN manager Derek McInnes insists his side could not be better prepared for this afternoon’s Europa League showdown in Kazakhstan despite the tiring journey to the Asian outpost.
The Dons will make their own slice of history when they become the furthest travelled team in Scottish football history for a “European” game even though they are only 200 miles from the Chinese border in hot and humid Almaty where they face Kairat.
But the Premiership runners-up cannot be accused of skimping on costs after forking out more than £200,000 to fly in a jet regularly used by Manchester City, England and even the Saudi Arabian royal family to ensure the players could get some proper rest ahead of today’s game.
They face a highly-ambitious Kazakh side, who boast former Bayern Munich Champions League-winning defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk in their ranks. But McInnes’ men have already defeated highly-ranked opposition in the form of the Croatian side Rijeka and, if Aberdeen fail, it will not be through lack of preparation.
McInnes said: “We feel we know everything we need to know. We’ve studied Kairat closely since we got through last week. In terms of the heat it won’t be a problem. We have been in the hotel and the squad is rested. There are no concerns about lack of sleep or anything. We landed at the same local time we usually do on European games.
“It was certainly a benefit having more room on the plane. Some players find it difficult to sleep on a plane regardless, but we have given ourselves every chance. The flight was not a problem at all. The majority of them slept and it was important to keep them on our time zones.
“Preparations are one thing, but things are always thrown up in the games. We have to be ready regardless of the time difference or the travelling. The players are excited and up for the challenge, as we all are.”
McInnes believes his side are flying the flag for Scottish football. He added: “First and foremost we want to do well for our club, but we’re well aware of the kickback from that… if clubs do well and we can play a part in the co-efficient getting better.
“Our first responsibility is to our club, our supporters and ourselves. But we know by doing well it will help us in future and hopefully other Scottish teams as well.”
Ash Taylor, Aberdeen’s commanding defender, praised the club for ensuring they arrived refreshed in the ninth largest country in the world and had no complaints about the journey. He said: “It was a long journey to get here, but the club have done brilliantly. I don’t think it will take too much out of us because we have prepared right. We’re trying to stay on our time and we all managed to get a good sleep on the plane because the club put on a good plane for us.
“I’ve been on the long journeys before on a bus to the likes of Plymouth, Torquay and Southampton, so this journey is not too bad. We’ve all been there and we’ve all done it. It’s just another game for us.”
Kairat are managed by Vladimir Weiss who, ten years ago this week, masterminded one of Celtic’s darkest days when Gordon Strachan began his Hoops management career with a car-crash 5-0 hammering at Artmedia Bratislava.
But Weiss – who will have to do without injured top scorer Gerard Gohou and strike partner Sito Riera – insisted that game had no relevance.
He said: “That was a great night for Armedia, but this is a different game. It’s impossible to compare football from ten years ago to now. A lot has changed in the game but we are well aware of Scottish football tactics. We know what to expect from Aberdeen. It won’t be the same as when Celtic came to Bratislava.
“The Scottish championship has obviously changed since what happened with Rangers. I watched a recent Scotland match and there was a lot of young players who are playing in the English Premier League.
“Scotland were struggling for a while but it looks like they are improving at club and national level.
We are expecting a difficult game. We are confident, however. Aberdeen are a good club, they have a rich history and everyone is aware they have had some very famous coaches such as Sir Alex Ferguson. We are looking forward to facing them.”
Tymoshchuk, at the age of 36 and with 140 caps and counting for Ukraine, has seen it all before, but also showed plenty of respect for McInnes’s side.
He said: “Aberdeen are very athletic and they will be difficult opponents. Our main job is to prevent them from scoring goals and hopefully take a lead from the first leg. They are a good team, but we are also confident of getting a good result to take to Scotland.”