Derek McInnes knows if Aberdeen are really going to rattle Celtic in the Premierhsip title race then they must rattle Hearts right from the kick-off at Tynecastle tomorrow night.
The defending champions’ goalless draw at Dens Park on Tuesday gives the Dons the chance to close the gap at the top to just two points before Ronny Deila’s side play Motherwell.
It is the sort of opportunity the Pittodrie club have failed to take on a number of occasions already this season, but one they cannot afford to squander now with the games fast running out.
On the plus side, this one comes at a venue where they swept aside the opposition on their last league visit with all the ruthlessness shown in the first-half demolition of Hamilton Accies last Sunday.
However, McInnes is acutely aware of the price they paid for a sluggish start on their last trip to Gorgie in January when crashing out of the Scottish Cup at the first hurdle.
That’s why he is convinced his players must hound their Hearts opponents right from the first whistle if they are going to crank up the pressure on Celtic and take the title race right to the wire.
He said: “If you compare the league game to the Scottish Cup match, then we got a brilliant start in the Premiership one. We were clinical when it came to taking chances. We went in and rattled Hearts in that one.
“The difference in the cup tie was that I thought we were the luckiest team alive to go in just 1-0 down at half-time.
“They imposed themselves on us, we lost a poor goal from a set play and while we were much more like ourselves in the second half, Hearts had something to hold on to.
“There’s no doubt we suffered because of our start, so it is important that we are the ones who impose themselves from the off in this game. It’s something that we talk about all the time here, but Hearts were very good at doing it that night in the cup tie. The pleasing thing about last Sunday is that it’s about results at this stage, but the performance was excellent.
“To bring that level of high quality, the energy displayed, the fight in the team and the pace in the side at this stage of the season was really pleasing. Hopefully now we take a bit of confidence from that going into the next match at Tynecastle.”
McInnes is aware that Hearts still haven’t given up hope of overhauling Aberdeen for secon place and is not surprised that they have clinched a European place in their first season back in the top flight.
He added:”I thought before we even played them last September that they were capable of having a strong season.
“They came back up with a lot of confidence, they have a huge backing and having looked at the squad I was convinced they would do well.
“I thought Hearts were a credit as they were very brave in the way they played as they tried to take Celtic on [last Saturday]. They deserve a lot of credit for that as they backed themselves, played with confidence and probably could have got a second goal at different stages of the first half.
“That might have had a bearing in the outcome, but Celtic were clinical to show why they are top of the league.”