VIRGIL Van Dijk believes a desire for vengeance will be the prime motivation for Celtic when they face Aberdeen this afternoon.
Despite holding a massive 27-point advantage over the second-placed Dons at the top of the Premiership table, Van Dijk insists the champions feel they have a point to prove against Derek McInnes’ men.
Aberdeen knocked Celtic out of the Scottish Cup with a 2-1 win at Parkhead in February, then in the same month repeated the scoreline at Pittodrie to inflict a first league defeat of the season on Neil Lennon’s side.
Dutch defender Van Dijk, who was sent off just 12 minutes into the latter game for a foul on Peter Pawlett, revealed Celtic are out to make a firm statement of their superiority today.
“I think everyone here wants to get some revenge and win the game,” he said. “We want to show that we are the champions and above everyone. I think Aberdeen were the only team this season who made it a hard game for us. We have to be ready because it will be a hard game again.
“We were bad against them in the Scottish Cup game and then they broke our unbeaten league record in a strange game. I got a red card and we were unlucky. It was stupid by me early in the game. It wasn’t my intention to hit him. I’m not a player who kicks someone on purpose.”
The dismissal was a rare blot on a generally outstanding first season at Celtic for Van Dijk. But the 22-year-old’s form has still not been enough to persuade Dutch national team boss Louis van Gaal to hand him a call-up.
Van Gaal is due to name his preliminary squad for the World Cup finals on Monday and Van Dijk does not expect to be included.
“I don’t have a big chance,” he said. “A lot of people in Holland have been saying I deserve a chance – but not Van Gaal! He is the most important person. If I’m not in the squad on Monday, then I can book my summer holidays.
“I don’t think I’ve missed out because I’m playing in Scotland. The league in Holland is not that good either. I played in the Champions League this season against some of the best strikers in the world, played some good games, but still didn’t get a call-up.”
Niall McGinn insists Aberdeen will stride confidently into their final week of the season believing they can clinch second spot in the Premiership.
The Dons’ 13-goal top scorer told RedTV: “It’s a big week in our season and we’re four points clear now so it’s still in our own hands. We want to push on and finish second. It’s exciting times for the club and we have nothing to fear down there at Celtic.”