Derek McInnes doesn’t like to hear his side contributed to Ronny Deila’s panic attacks last season but he still plans to bring Brendan Rodgers out in a cold sweat tomorrow.
McInnes learned of Deila’s admission that the pressure of keeping Celtic ahead in the league was part of the reason he suffered from anxiety during his two-year spell in charge at Parkhead.
“It’s a shame to hear that if that is what he said,” commented McInnes. “It just shows how the job can consume you and people handle it a different way.”
Celtic ended the season 15 points ahead of second-placed Aberdeen. However, they were run close before the Pittodrie side endured a sticky spell towards the end of the campaign.
Celtic are looking even more impregnable under Rodgers, Deila’s successor, and have not lost a domestic game all season. It’s been left to Aberdeen to try to put the heat on them again in tomorrow’s Betfred Cup final at Hampden Park.
“I think without question the two victories here [at Pittodrie], above all, planted that seed of doubt in them last season,” said McInnes. “They knew they had a challenge. They felt it. While we had good results and consistent results all over the country last season and the year before, it was the games last season when we beat them that had a significant impact on them. And for us we need to plant the seed of doubt in Celtic on Sunday and that means starting the game well, being strong and being as good as we can be.”
Aberdeen beat Celtic in both home league games last season but have lost 22 consecutive times in the league at Celtic Park. Fortunately tomorrow’s match is at neutral Hampden Park, where the support will be evenly split.
“We recognise the strengths of Celtic and their capabilities and how good a side they are,” said McInnes. “Their improvement is clear. They have made good signings that I don’t think could have been made without having the manager in place. Those players came for loads of reasons but predominantly because of the manager. The improvement is clear in them. As a club we need to make our own improvements. But there’s no doubt when you have the chance to make an impact on them you need to take it.”
The Pittodrie manager didn’t say it in so many words but his desire to see Aberdeen unsettle Celtic from the start tomorrow could be an admission that he got things wrong against them last month.
McInnes named top scorer Adam Rooney and on loan starlet James Maddison on the bench and saw Celtic take an early lead through Tom Rogic. Although the pair were introduced in the second-half, Aberdeen failed find the breakthrough. Both Rooney and Maddison, who is on loan from Norwich City, are expected to start tomorrow.