Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes reckons victory against Rangers at Pittodrie tomorrow will all but end Rangers’ hopes of denying the Dons second in the Scottish Premiership.
The Dons have won 10 in a row at Pittodrie to open up a 12-point gap on Pedro Caixinha’s side.
A last-minute free kick from on-loan Norwich City midfielder James Maddison gave the Dons a 2-1 victory when the sides met at Pitodrie in September, while Rangers won by the same score at Ibrox in December.
With such a sizeable gap between the sides, even the ever-cautious McInnes accepted a Dons win this weekend would make it almost impossible for his side to be caught in the race to finish best of the rest behind runaway champions Celtic.
McInnes, who was named Ladbrokes manager of the month for March yesterday, said: “If we win and go 15 points clear with six games to go we would be very confident we would get second spot.
“You won’t get anybody saying it is done and dusted because there is still work to do.
“The message to my players is there is still work to be done. We feel we have put ourselves in a good position, but there are still a lot of key games coming up.
“Sunday is the first of those and then we have all the top six games, a semi-final and hopefully a cup final after that.
“There are hopefully a lot of big and meaningful games ahead of us and it is important we are ready to meet them head on.”
McInnes believes his Rangers counterpart has gone over the top by likening tomorrow’s visit to Pittodrie to a trip to hell.
In his pre-match press conference yesterday, new Rangers manager Caixinha revealed he is expecting a feisty and passionate match at Pittodrie, adding “Everybody has told me we are going to hell.”
Dons manager McInnes opted not to fan the flames any further, saying: “I think the translation of that is he knows it is an important game.
“He is just trying to stress he knows the importance of the rivalry between the two clubs.
“It will be sold out by the time kick-off comes round and there is still a lot on the game.
“When Rangers come to Aberdeen it is always eagerly anticipated, but I wouldn’t go as far as hell.
“It was built up the last time and passed without incident.
“It was the atmosphere we all wanted with the two sets of supporters and the Aberdeen supporters went home happy because of the last-minute winner.
“It was a brilliant atmosphere and I think it will be something similar again.”
Forward Jayden Stockley returns to the Aberdeen squad following suspension, while defender Mark Reynolds will return to training on Monday following groin surgery.