Rijeka manager Matjaz Kek talks up Aberdeen
The Dons travel to the Adriatic coast today to face the Croatian League runners-up. Bookies and the local media give Aberdeen no chance against the team who held Europa League winners Sevilla to a draw last season and beat Feyenoord and Standard Liege at their fortress Kantrida Stadium.
But outspoken manager Kek – who had a spell in charge of Slovenia – has plenty of respect for Derek McInnes’ side.
He said: “If people here think Aberdeen are some kind of lumberjacks who will only lump the ball high, they have got another thing coming.
“This is a team that knows how to play, they have plenty of quality.
“We have to prepare for this fully. The Kantrida will be full and that will be a great advantage to us. But if our heads are not right, then the fans will not be happy.
“The players must play to their strengths and not get caught up in the atmosphere.
“Aberdeen are a side who are aggressive, but play with great tactical discipline. And our problem so far in games has been than we have lacked aggression.”
But Kek has apologised to his players for calling them ‘stinking’ after they drew their opening league game of the season.
He said: “I said they were stinking and I shouldn’t have said that. I wanted to say that we weren’t hungry enough – the hunger we have shown in the previous seasons. None of us did that night – from me downwards.
“But if we recapture our desire, we can be a powerful team again.”
Meanwhile, McInnes believes that Rijeka are on a par with the Real Sociedad side who knocked the Dons out of Europe last season, and he’s wary of Rijeka – who have lost just one of their last 19 home European games after embarking on a thorough research of them.
He said: “Rijeka are in the same bracket as the Spaniards.
“They have a high calibre of players who have experience of top European matches. They will be a tough nut to crack but that’s not to say we can’t win the tie.
“Many people in Scotland won’t have been too aware of Rijeka when the draw was made.
“But we have worked tirelessly to get as much information as we can about them.
“The standard of their league is strong and it’s clear they have excellent pedigree.
“We are in Europe for the chance to test ourselves against quality opponents.
“We are looking forward to pitting our wits against them to try to get the result we desire.
“We want to go as far as we can in Europe and we know if we are going to do that we will have to get the better of some really good teams.
“We’ve put one good side out already but the Croatians are even better.”