ABERDEEN manager Derek McInnes expects his players to prove they have the ability and mental toughness to end a miserable run of results at Celtic Park tomorrow.
The Dons were in elite company last season as they joined AC Milan and Barcelona in becoming the only teams to defeat the Scottish Champions twice.
That included a famous Scottish Cup victory at Parkhead in February, but they have lost 18 games in a row in the league at the Glasgow ground.
You have to go back to October 2004 for that last success, and the intervening years have included a worst-ever 9-0 thrashing when Mark McGhee was in charge.
Playing at the venue has proved a daunting prospect for Aberdeen teams of the past, but McInnes is convinced the current generation will rise to the occasion.
He said: “It can be intimidating there but it should also bring out the best in your own players. You want the players you have signed or work with to rub their hands at the prospect, roll their sleeves up and go out there with a ‘let’s bring it on’ attitude.
“I think we have shown we have got that, having beaten Celtic twice last year and run them close in the first league game. I think we showed we had enough about us and we just try to put a bit of pressure on ourselves to try and win.
“That’s regardless of whether we are playing a team with a big support, who are doing well or a smaller team who are struggling.
“We have always felt it is about ourselves and trying to add that bit of consistency to ourselves and our performance.
“Individually, Celtic still have players who can hurt you if they are given time and space, and we have to be aware of that.
“I do think there is a change of style in the way they want to play with and without the ball. That can take time but you saw against Dundee United what it can be like when it works. We just have to make sure we bring the right level of performance and make it a good day for us, regardless of how Celtic play.”
Willo Flood returns from injury to face his former club but captain Russell Anderson is out for at least another month recovering from a knee operation.
That means Ash Taylor will experience the Celtic Park atmosphere for the first time since signing from Tranmere Rovers in the summer.
The central defender endured a nightmare league debut in the 3-0 defeat against Dundee United but McInnes has no concerns about how he’ll cope tomorrow. McInnes added: “It would be wrong to say just because of Russell’s injury that he has a chance.
“He was excellent against Thistle and in the games he has played he has shown enough for us to see what he is capable of.
“He is a very good organiser, brings a real presence and he makes good use of the ball but is there to defend first and foremost. We are not the biggest of teams, middle to front and Ash gives us that bit of bulk and presence.
“We felt it was a position that we needed to strengthen as you are never too sure with Russell’s history with injuries.
“Russell managed to play a brilliant number of games for us last year but we just felt we needed another centre-back.
“And I have no doubts he, like the rest of the team, won’t be fazed by the game on Saturday.”