Focusing on Aberdeen’s inability to avoid defeat against Celtic doesn’t even begin to do justice to the full awfulness of their record against the Scottish champions.
The best-known losing streak in Scottish football has been often quoted this week as Aberdeen go into their hosting of Celtic today seeking to end a sequence of nine straight defeats in this match-up. Yet, the full picture is worse, much worse than that.
Aberdeen last did anything against Celtic when they beat them 2-1 at Pittodrie in early February 2016. In the two years since then, they are the only current Premiership club not to at least take a point from them. They have lost seven league games and two cup games, despite being their closest title challengers in recent years. Or, Derek McInnes would contend, because his Aberdeen team have been the main contenders.
“Celtic have always seen our game as a big game and an opportunity to slap us down,” the Pittodrie club’s manager said. “The approach has always been very much like that. They’ve always played their strongest team and when the games come thick and fast for Celtic that isn’t always the case against other teams.
“There is no doubt that first against second is always seen as a big game. We see it as a big game, and we haven’t been able to overcome them. Yes, there have been failings within that. We have to look at ourselves. Regardless of what Celtic team we play against we expect a better level of performance. In lots of those games we have had good spells. Good moments, crucial moments, like most games, but we haven’t been able to put a complete 90-minute performance in against them. We look at ourselves, we look to try and deliver that on Sunday.”
There is another perceived factor in Celtic’s ability to slap down Aberdeen: McInnes over-thinking his approach to these games and deviating from what is a winning formula most other weeks. “We’ve tried different approaches,” McInnes said. “We’ve gone the majority of times with the same system and personnel we would go with in every other game. So you go in with your strongest team. When we play against a better level of team there is a bit more thought to the balance between attacking and defending.
“Earlier this season we took on Celtic with two out-and-out strikers for the first time...and we lost the game three-nil. We absolutely got overrun in the middle of the park. We’ve tried a back five and we’ve tried different ways of trying to find a way to win. It’s been difficult. I watch Celtic sometimes playing other teams and they allow themselves to make a lot of changes.”