The heat is on in more ways than one for Aberdeen as they step up their preparations for their fifth season in a row of European football.Cork
Temperatures reached 35 degrees in Cork yesterday afternoon as the Dons players were put through their paces in their afternoon training session under the watchful eye of manager Derek McInnes and his coaching staff.
The hard work being put in this week culminates in tomorrow’s friendly against Cobh Ramblers at Fota Island Resort training facility (2.0) before the Dons return to Scotland next week.
This is the second summer in a row Aberdeen will enter the Europa League at the second qualifying round stage and, having made heavy work in overcoming a stubborn Siroki Brijeg to book their place in the third qualifying round last season, the Dons boss knows he cannot afford a repeat against English Premier League side Burnley.
McInnes said: “We have fallen at that third round hurdle every year but we have beaten some good teams every season we have been in it. This year will be the toughest test, going into a game like Burnley as the first one back from the summer break.
“When we were drawn against Siroki in the later rounds (last year) I felt we were undercooked a bit.
“So this year – even before we played Burnley – we decided to get more games in.
“Now we know we’re playing against a team from the English Premier League, those extra matches are a necessity.”
Spanish side Real Sociedad are arguably the strongest opponents Aberdeen have faced in Europe during McInnes’s reign but the manager believes Sean Dyche’s Clarets are every bit as formidable as the Spaniards.
He said: “Real Sociedad were a very good side, they finished sixth or seventh in the Spanish league when we played them in 2014.
“For me, Burnley is just as tough – if not tougher – when you look at the league they come out of and the level of player they have.
“We have to hit the ground running against them, we have to have that performance straight away this time round.
“In the past we did well building on it, from Groningen to Sociedad and so on, but this time we have to be at it for the first game.”
The first leg at Pittodrie is four weeks away but anticipation is already building for the tie. The game will be Burnley’s first in Europe for more than half a century, while it is the fifth campaign in five years for the Dons.
Burnley boast expensive players from the richest league in the world but McInnes is counting on his side’s European experience standing them in good stead both.
He said: “The experience we have had in Europe should help us a lot, I’m sure it’s in the players’ heads every time they train or go to do a run what is there for them.
“Every training session is a step towards where we want to be in that first game.
“We have a very exciting start to the season, our first three matches are Burnley, Burnley and then Rangers.
“They will be three sellout games with a lot of focus on them.
“We have to make sure we are ready for everything.”