Scott McKenna expected to be on Aberdeen flight to Rijeka

Derek McInnes insists steering Aberdeen to the Europa League group stage at the sixth attempt would be as notable an achievement as reaching the four domestic cup finals he has guided the club to since taking over in 2013.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes. Picture: SNS

Celtic’s recent three-year monopoly of Scotland’s silverware means only the 2014 League Cup final ended in victory against Inverness Caledonian Thistle but significant progress in European competition remains a driving ambition of the Dons 

That seems likely to be helped by the presence of Scott McKenna when the plane departs for Croatia this lunchtime for tomorrow’s first-leg tie against Rijeka after the defender’s shock transfer request was firmly rejected on Monday.

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Aberdeen, with a £45 million stadium and training ground to finance, will not budge from the minimum £7m fee they want for the player.

A far-from-daunting tie against AEK Larnaca of Cyprus or Gent from Belgium in the final round of qualifying awaits the Dons if they can repeat anything like the 5-2 aggregate win against Rijeka four years ago.

McInnes, pictured, said:“Any cup competition is all about getting through. For us, we expect tough challenges. In domestic cup competitions, the mindset is to get to the final and win it. To get to the group stage of the Europa League would be our final. It’s about working our way through the rounds and not getting too far ahead of yourselves. If you do that in cup competitions, you’re liable to take a sore one.”

Injuries keep central defender Mikey Devlin and Ash Taylor out of the first leg while experienced midfielder Craig Bryson and former Motherwell striker Curtis Main are struggling to be fit in time. With Taylor out that means only Shay Logan and Andrew Considine survive from the team that inflicted Rijeka’s first home defeat in 19 European games four years ago.

McInnes said:“If anything, going to Rijeka will be more difficult this time round. I don’t know how they will view us after watching our matches, but, on the evidence of the last time we went there, they will know we’re a team capable of getting results.”