Derek McInnes couldn’t care less about the level of personal abuse he gets from Rangers supporters tonight, as long as Aberdeen perform better than they did on their last trip to Ibrox and remain Celtic’s closest challengers when they emerge from the experience.
That previous visit resulted in an embarrassing 3-0 defeat for the Dons in November and was followed by another Rangers win at Pittodrie five days later at a time when McInnes was being linked with the vacancy created by the dismissal of Pedro Caixinha.
Of course, just as he had done previously with Sunderland’s job offer, the Aberdeen manager decided to stay put and takes his team to the Govan ground for the first time since then knowing he’s in for a hostile reception in what’s always an emotionally charged fixture anyway.
The fact Rangers can move above the Dons into second place with a win is only likely to intensify that, but the Aberdeen manager said: “I have no idea what reception I’ll get but it’s not important to me.
“What is important is what’s happening on the pitch, all the other stuff that goes on when you go to other grounds is immaterial.
“What it’s about is the players and what’s happening on the park and I am more concerned about making sure we get off to a better start than anything else. From our own point of view, we want to give a far better performance than we did the last time at Ibrox. We didn’t start well that night, Rangers were brighter on the day and they won the game. “
Scott McKenna and Kari Arnason return in defence for tonight’s game after missing the Scottish Cup win against St Mirren through suspension and injury respectively.
Kenny McLean also starts after being loaned back by Norwich City following his transfer to the Championship club earlier this week and recent returnee Niall McGinn will be much sharper after his run out as substitute in the cup- tie.
McInnes’ other recent signing, Chidi Nwakali, won’t feature as the midfielder, on loan from Manchester City, has yet to receive his work permit.
Meanwhile McInnes is hopeful Anthony O’Connor won’t be heading back to English football when his contract ends in the summer as he remains confident of agreeing a new deal with the versatile Irishman.
The Dons manager said:“We have had good talks with Anthony and I am still as confident we can retain him for next season. “He hasn’t indicated that he wants to go to England. While we haven’t had an agreement, we are not further away from one.”