Derek McInnes expects Aberdeen to face a step up in class when they meet Apollon Limassol in the third round of Europa League qualifying tomorrow.
The Dons recovered from a score draw in the home leg of the previous round against Siroki Brijeg to eliminate their opponents from Bosnia Herzegovina with another impressive victory on their travels. In contrast the Aberdeen manager admits it’s difficult to be certain just how good Apollon are given their comfortable 5-1 aggregate win over Zaria of Moldova in the previous round.
McInnes was certainly impressed with the way they went about their business in both legs of the tie but that doesn’t disguise the fact they didn’t face the toughest of tests.
Now he’s warned that’s a situation that won’t be repeated when the clubs meet in the first leg at Pittodrie tomorrow night.
It’s the fourth successive season Aberdeen have made it to this round of the competition but McInnes will only really be satisfied if they reach the group stage for the first time.
“Apollon were very impressive against the Moldovans but I will temper that a bit by saying they got it far too easy,” McInnes said.
“But you couldn’t fail to be impressed by their movement, their approach to the play and their intensity. Theywere clearly the better side but they did the right things.
“They have two overlapping full-backs, bright movement ahead of the play, two controllers in central midfield and two good centre-halves.
“But I would think they are looking at our second-half display in Bosnia and seeing why we were the second best team in Scotland last season.
“It will be a tough game for us but also a tough one for them, and we’re more ready for it now after that game on Thursday. The 90 minutes and the competitive element of the game in Bosnia will help the players make big strides forward.”
McInnes will have the versatile Icelander Kari Arnason, who is equally at home in defence or midfield, available for the first time since his recent return to the club from Omonia Nicosia.
Aberdeen may have lost several key players in the summer but the manager has moved quickly to assemble what still looks like being a strong squad for the challenges ahead.
New signings Greg Tansey and Nicky Maynard were only on the bench against Siroki Brijeg last week alongside regular top goalscorer Adam Rooney and Scott Wright.
McInnes expects Rooney and Maynard to form a prolific partnership once the striker he previously managed at Bristol City settles in at his new club.
He’s also delighted to have Wright back to full fitness as the teenage winger can prove a valuable home grown replacement now Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes have moved on.
McInnes added: “Scott overcame a mental hurdle last week and although he was on the bench for the home leg against Siroki he had only had a day’s training at that point.
“He was still not quite right with his hamstring injury but he has been bouncing in training and it was important to get him 90 minutes at Brechin on Sunday.
“I feel he is going to be a big player for us this season as he brings real speed at the top end of the pitch.
“He can play equally well off both sides of the pitch and his final ball is getting better as is his decision-making.
“He is certainly one that we want to have a big impact this season.
“If you put a camera on Nicky and follow his movement you’ll see he’s always asking questions of the centre-backs.
“He just needs that wee bit of sharpness to finish off the good work.
“I think him and Rooney could have scored some more goals between them but I think it’s really encouraging that we’ve got another option, and that type of player, at the club.”