Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes is treating tomorrow’s Scottish Cup semi-final opponents Hibernian like a fellow top-six side rather than lower-league opposition.
Neil Lennon’s men will return to the top flight next season after clinching the Championship title last Saturday with a 3-0 victory against Queen of the South.
The Dons are regarded as firm favourites for the last-four encounter but McInnes is wary of the Easter Road men, who won the competition last year.
Since being demoted to the second tier three years ago, Hibs have knocked several top-flight sides out of competitions, including the Dons with a 2-0 win in the third round of the League Cup in September 2015.
Hearts (twice), Caley Thistle, St Johnstone and Dundee United (twice) were other top flight casualties, so McInnes knows his Reds will have to be at their best tomorrow if they are to earn a place in next month’s final.
The Aberdeen manager said: “Whenever we’ve watched them they’ve dominated the game and looked in control.
“I’ve seen them come through some difficult games in their league.
“Even when they’ve not been at their best, they’ve always looked the most likely to win the game.
“They’ve got good experience, plenty energy about them and obviously we’re playing against a team used to winning and playing with a bit of confidence.
“We’ve got a tough game on our hands.
“We probably view them like a top-six side.
“We’ve played a couple of teams in the earlier rounds away to Ross County and Partick Thistle at Pittodrie and you’d say this game is as tough as those games.
“Hibs have got the experience of winning the cup last year, the confidence of winning their league and the level of player that they have will ensure it is a difficult game for us.
“They’ve done well. As holders, they’ll be really keen to hold on to the trophy.
“There’s no doubting that we’ve got a tough game and I think the players are aware of that.
“We’ll respect them and look at their strengths and maybe where we can have a bit of joy against them but we’re confident in ourselves as well.
“We’re the second best team in the country at the minute. We’re in good form barring six or seven minutes against Rangers and there’s been a lot I’ve been really pleased with in the team.
“The level of performance and the results have been good. We’ve been scoring goals and we overcame a tough game last week at St Johnstone. We go into this one really looking forward to it.”
Tomorrow will be four years to the day since McInnes first took charge of the Dons in a dull 0-0 draw against Hibernian at Easter Road.
He hopes this weekend’s encounter will be far more exciting.
He added: “That game was a shocker.
“Back then there was nothing to play for and it was about assessing the players.
“We had five meaningless games. There was nothing riding on them but professional pride.
“Now here we are, a semi-final to look forward to, Europe secured and fighting for second spot.
“It’s important for a club like this to have meaningful games at this stage of the season.
“That was something we wanted to address and it’s probably something we have done.”