Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes believes his team are “absolutely” capable of ending Celtic’s current monopoly of Scottish football silverware by winning the Betfred Cup final at Hampden on 2 December.
After Lewis Ferguson scored the only goal of the semi-final against Rangers, McInnes will lock horns with Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers in a domestic final for the third time after losing out in both the League Cup and Scottish Cup showpiece occasions two seasons ago.
The Scottish champions, who defeated Hearts 3-0 in the other Betfred Cup semi-final at Murrayfield yesterday, will be strong favourites to win a seventh consecutive domestic honour under Rodgers.
But McInnes feels the tough route Aberdeen have negotiated to reach the final indicates they are ready to upset the odds.
“Do I think we can beat Celtic over the course of a cup tie?” said the Dons boss. “Absolutely. For us to win the League Cup this year, we will have had to have beaten Hibs in Edinburgh, Rangers in Glasgow and then Celtic in Glasgow. It’s not going to be easy but we are now 90 minutes away from doing it.”
It will be a fourth cup final appearance for Aberdeen under McInnes who is philosophical about the often negative levels of scrutiny he and his team continue to be placed under despite his record since taking charge in 2013.
“I think that is the nature of what we’ve done in the last five years,” he said. “We’ve had seven semi-finals and four cup finals in five and a bit years. You need to go back nearly 30 years to get something close to that for Aberdeen.
“I can’t defend my own record or the team all the time – it’s there to be seen. We understand there are certain games when we can do better and we deserve criticism, like every team, but we’re making a far better fist of it as a club and we’re being competitive and doing a lot of things right to try to keep us competitive against teams like Rangers who have far bigger resources.
“We’re judged and criticised at times for not beating the Old Firm. There was a time not so long ago when Aberdeen couldn’t even beat Ross County and Inverness, with the greatest respect. If we’re there to be criticised, fine, at least we’re putting ourselves in a position to be criticised.”
McInnes was gratified by the defensive qualities of his team in a match in which Rangers controlled possession to little effect. “Rangers huffed and puffed and never really worked Joe Lewis in our goal,” he said.
“You see that a striker is all-important. Rangers’ star player is Alfredo Morelos and they missed him today.
“They dominated a lot of possession but we defended brilliantly. That’s three clean sheets now, we’ve not lost a goal in the League Cup.
“At least we’re in the mix. While this team is still working hard to find its best form and we’re making improvements as we go along, it is a new team again, having lost a few players.
“It’s good that we can still get to cup finals while we’re still working together.”