DEREK McInnes last night warned Croatian side Rijeka that they will need to play to the level of La Liga side Real Sociedad if they want to beat his Aberdeen team.
The Dons face the Croatian League runners-up tonight at Rijeka’s fortress Kantrida Stadium, where the home side have beaten the likes of Stuttgart, Feyenoord and Standard Liege, drawn with Europa League winners Sevilla and are unbeaten in 12 home games in Europe.
As well as that formidable record, Aberdeen will also have to contend with temperatures in the high 30s, which has prompted the Croatian authorities to issue a severe weather warning.
But McInnes – whose side were well under par when they squeezed through against Macedonian minnows Shkendija in the previous round – is confident his men can stand up to both the crack Croats and the heat.
He said: “The task is difficult against a side of this quality but there is no point in not trying and not believing we can win. We believed we could beat Groningen last season and we did and we believed we could beat Sociedad.
“We made them play well to win the game and I would suggest Rijeka will have to do the same to beat us. But there is no doubting they are a quality team. Their results in the last couple of seasons in Europe show how strong they are.
“Once we looked into the recent history of Rejika we could see how strong an opponent we are facing. We have huge respect for them. Since the draw was made we’ve been more aware of the qualities they have. I like how they play.
“They are a very strong, aggressive team with good technical players who can win games. I like their style and how they play. It is a big challenge for us. I understand that. But that’s why we are in Europe. That’s why we pushed to finish second in the league last season.
“Without question, this is a big challenge. For me, Rejika are firm favourites and we are the underdog.
“But we feel we can win if we manage the game properly. To do that, we will have to bring a top performance and, hopefully, we can do that.”
Although McInnes admits the heat will be a challenge, even with a later 9pm local kick-off time, he has backed his team to rise to the challenge.
He said: “Obviously the Croatians are more used to those temperatures at this time of the year, but it’s still exceptionally hot even by their standards.
“It is a factor. I think we have to take that into consideration obviously but regardless of the conditions and circumstance, wherever we go, we always trying and play to win the game and try and adapt. But it is something to be mindful of.
“These are unusual temperatures for Scotland, especially for Aberdeen. But it’s what European football can bring. We have to adapt. It’s part of the journey and have to deal with it the best we can. It’s not ideal playing conditions for both sets of players.”
Meanwhile, Dons defender Shay Logan is aiming to top off an excellent week by winning in Croatia after becoming a dad for the third time.
The exotically-named Zeplin River Logan entered the world at the weekend and the former Manchester City right-back is hoping for a double celebration.
He said: “I’ve only had three days of it, but I love it. It’s the best job ever. It’s the only job that’s better than being a footballer.
“It’s difficult because I only had the little boy on Saturday and I’ve had to go away this week. If we get a good result it would be a fine end to the week I’ve had.
“You’d have to ask my missus about the name. I think it’s only fair because I’ve already had a little boy and girl and she wanted to choose the name this time.
“I like the name. I wasn’t too keen on it at first, but after her telling me ‘that’s the name’ sometimes you have to give in! And when you see his little face he looks like a Zeplin!
“I know Rijeka are really strong at home and they are favourites. But we know we are a strong capable team too and we’ve had some really good results. We are confident whoever we play. We’re not unaware of the difficulty of the task, but it’s something we are well up for.”