Derek McInnes is confident there will be plenty of mileage left in Aberdeen’s European adventure if they return from their epic journey to Kazakhstan with an away goal.
The Dons were due to fly out of Dyce Airport at 11pm yesterday on the mammoth eight-hour, 4,500 mile trip to face FC Kairat Almaty in tomorrow’s Europa League qualifier.
There’s also the matter of a five-hour time difference for the players to cope with ahead of the first-leg tie in the 23,000 capacity Central Stadium.
Despite that, manager McInnes is certain his men can produce the form that proved too hot for HNK Rijeka to handle despite temperatures of 33C in Croatia a fortnight ago.
The 3-0 win over there was the first by foreign opposition in 13 matches and continued Aberdeen’s fine form on their travels since the current manager took charge.
They have failed to score only once in five away trips and that tie against La Liga side Real Sociedad was also the only one they’ve lost on aggregate so far.
If we don’t score in Almaty, it will make next week’s game that bit more difficultDerek McInnes
That’s why McInnes knows the long trek home ahead of Sunday’s Premiership opener at Tannidice will be far more enjoyable with an away goal to bring back from Almaty.
McInnes said: “It’s important we come back on the flight having had a positive result and bring them back here with a chance of getting through the tie. We can take the confidence from the Rijeka game into this match but we know there are no guarantees.
“Our away performances have been strong in the last couple of seasons in Europe and we have made a habit of scoring away from home. The only tie we haven’t scored in was the Sociedad game last year when they knocked us out at this stage.
“We have two 90-minute games we want to try to win, but ultimately an away goal on Thursday would help us a lot for next week.
“We normally score domestically week in, week out and we were the second highest scorers from set-pieces in the league last season.
“We’ve got good pace and the ability to score goals and it is important we try to make the most of any opportunities we have over there. If we don’t score in Almaty it will make next week’s game that bit more difficult.”
Kairat lost out to Danish side Esbjerg at the second round of qualifying last season but this time they have already eliminated Red Star Belgrade and St Johnstone’s conquerors Alashkert.
Striker Djordie Despotovic has scored four goals in four games since joining them on loan from Red Star Belgrade while Anatoily Tymoshchuk is an expensive signing from Zenit St Petersburg.
The veteran midfielder, with 140 Ukraine caps, was skipper of the Zenit St Petersburg side that defeated Rangers in the 2008 Uefa Cup Final and won the Champions League with Bayern Munich two years ago.
The fact he rejected a lucrative move to the USA to join Kairat shows the sort of money oil and gas tycoon owner, the appropriately named Kairat Boranbayev, has poured into a club currently top of their league.
They have already played 22 league games and McInnes believes that alone is cause for concernHe added:”It’s difficult to say how they compare to Rijeka but they will be as tough a challenge as the Croatians were. They are ahead of them in terms of their match sharpness as they are well in the groove, whereas the Croatians were just starting off much as we were.
“They are a good side and you can see they have the benefit of being well into their league campaign. They are playing with a lot of confidence at the top of the league and won a league game comfortably with what was really their second team last Sunday.
“They rested eight players away to a team which, on paper, was a challenge as they needed to win the game to get into the top six. They don’t lose many goals, especially at home, and they have good individual talent at the top end of the pitch.
“It is difficult to say where they are in relation to other teams we’ve faced, but they are certainly a team who are going to be difficult to overcome but I still feel we can do exactly that.”
McInnes has a near full-strength squad. Only Mark Reynolds misses as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery.