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Graeme Shinnie: Dons can end Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run at Pittodrie

Dons captain, Graeme Shinnie.
Dons captain, Graeme Shinnie.

Aberdeen lost all six meetings with Celtic last season but Dons captain Graeme Shinnie believes his side are capable of ending the Hoops’ 60-game unbeaten domestic run tonight.

Brendan Rodgers’ side recorded an invincible campaign last term as they secured a domestic clean sweep with Dons finishing runners-up in all three competitions.

However the Hoops have looked far more vulnerable than usual in recent weeks, conceding five times during their past two fixtures – a 3-0 Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich followed by Saturday’s 4-2 Betfred Cup semi-final victory against Hibernian.

The Dons have not played since their 1-0 success against Hibs at Easter Road 11 days ago, while tonight’s encounter will be Celtic’s fourth match during the same period.

But Shinnie does not expect fatigue to be a factor this evening.

He said: “I personally don’t think it will have a massive bearing on the game.

“It might obviously hamper them a wee bit, but with the resources they’ve got and the squad that they’ve got, I’m sure they’ll be able to handle that.

“The best thing for them was coming off the Hibs game with a win and getting to the final. They’ll be in a positive mood after that. They’ll come up here as confident as ever. It will just be a normal game.

“We can always take positives from the fact that they have been conceding more goals lately. The unbeaten run that they’re on is obviously an incredible achievement but we need to try to pick holes that we can exploit to try to win.

“Being at home with the crowd that will be at Pittodrie, it’s a good opportunity for us.

“It’s never going to be easy. Celtic have a strong squad and they’re on the run they are because of that. We know it’s going to be a tough test but if we play to our capabilities, it’s a game we can win.”

The Dons may look to target Nir Bitton as a potential weak link if the Israeli midfielder is again deployed as a make-shift central defender for the Hoops with Jozo Simunovic again set to miss out due to a hamstring injury.

Shinnie said: “He’s a good player but if he’s playing out of position then, potentially, it could be an opportunity for us. We’ve got good attacking players and we know we can score goals so it’s a case of trying to keep a clean sheet and then trying to build on that.

“We’ve had team meetings as we do before every game.

“We try to pick out their weaknesses and see where we can exploit. It’s obviously a wee bit tougher when you’re going up against a team who haven’t lost a game in 60 domestic games, but we have to try and pin-point something we can take advantage of.

“We need to be, first and foremost, at the top of our game and making sure we’re up for the fight. We need to show a bit of quality on top of that.”

Celtic’s strength in depth is such that former Aberdeen player Jonny Hayes, the most consistent Dons player in recent seasons, has struggled to establish himself at Parkhead. The Republic of Ireland international has made only three league starts so far this season.

Shinnie added: “Celtic will have players who will come in who probably didn’t play on Saturday, maybe ones who played against Bayern Munich last week.

“They have the squad depth to cover all the games that come at once.

“No matter who’ll be play we know it’s going to be a really strong Celtic team.

“We need to combat that by being at the top of our game and giving the crowd something to cheer on and drive us forward.

“We’re not Bayern Munich but we need to try to replicate what they did. Celtic lost two goals against Hibs on Saturday so we need to look at how those were conceded.

“We have to try and pick weaknesses but obviously it’s hard because they’re a really good team.

“However we have players in our changing room who can hurt them.”

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