Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes says his players will push themselves to the limit to try to upset the odds in a mouth-watering Europa League tie against Burnley.
The Dons will face the English Premier League club in the second qualifying round after being handed arguably the toughest possible assignment from yesterday’s draw in Nyon.
McInnes accepts Aberdeen are rank outsiders against a Burnley outfit who finished seventh in the EPL last season and have a player budget in excess of £60 million. But he is relishing the challenge posed in the tie, the first leg of which will take place at Pittodrie on 26 July with the second leg at Turf Moor on 2 August.
“We know we’ll be big underdogs but rest assured we’ll be doing all we possibly can to cause an upset,” said McInnes. “There will be a terrific atmosphere at Pittodrie and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a sell-out. It’s a fantastic draw. We’ll be playing against a team that has done exceptionally well in what is regarded as the best league in the world. It should be a fabulous contest.”
It will be the fourth time Aberdeen have faced English opponents in Europe. They lost 5-2 to Tottenham in the second round of the Uefa Cup in 1973-74, before enduring mixed fortunes against top-flight English clubs during the halcyon days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial tenure. They lost 5-0 on aggregate to Liverpool in the second round of the European Cup in 1980-81 but beat holders Ipswich 4-2 on aggregate in the first round of the Uefa Cup the next season.
Aberdeen have reached the third qualifying round of the Europa League in the past four seasons but will have to produce their most eye-catching success yet under McInnes to make it that far this time.
For Burnley, in Europe for only the third time and for the first time since 1966-67, it will be their first competitive clash with Scottish opponents since beating Celtic 3-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals of their victorious Anglo-Scottish Cup campaign in 1978-79.
Burnley manager Sean Dyche was relatively satisfied with the draw, if mainly for logistical reasons.He said: “Everyone knows it could have been anything, looking at the draw with the amount of different teams from different countries involved.
“And, lo and behold, we get someone just up the road. But we’ve worked hard to get here and we’ll look forward to the challenge. We know we won’t be travelling far, so it won’t be too unfamiliar. It brings focus to the end part of our pre-season and we can prepare for what should be a competitive cup tie.”
Rangers and Hibs will start their Europa League campaigns in the first qualifying round, against Macedonian side Shkupi and Faroese outfit Runavik respectively. The first legs are scheduled for 12 July with the return games week later. If Rangers progress, they will face either Petrocub of Macedonia or Croatians Osijek in the second qualifying round, while Hibs would take on Greek club Asteras Tripolis.