Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie is ready for the Dons’ toughest European challenge in recent seasons as they take on Burnley at Pittodrie this evening.
Real Sociedad, Kairat, Maribor and Apollon Limassol have all proven too strong for Derek McInnes’s players, who have exited the Europa League in the third qualifying round four years on the trot.
Shinnie feels Burnley, who finished seventh in the English Premier League last season, are a step above what the Dons have come up against in Europe in recent years.
McInnes strengthened his squad on the eve of the match by signing Wolves defender Tommie Hoban on a season-long loan and former Partick Thistle goalkeeper Tomas Cerny on a one-year deal.
Former Caley Thistle player Shinnie is optimistic the Dons can give a strong account of themselves against Sean Dyche’s men in tonight’s first leg as they attempt to reach the third qualifying round of the Europa League for the fifth successive year.
He said: “The Scotland-England aspect probably adds a bit of spice to those on the outside but not on the inside.
“We know what is in store and what Burnley come with after finishing seventh in the English Premier League.
“We know the task in hand but as soon as the draw was made I was buzzing for it.
“Naturally, you want an easier draw but it’s a game that excites us and, if we were able to win, it would be a massive achievement.
“You want the big games in football and we’ve got Rangers as well in the first league game of the season and that’s the way we want it.
“A lot of times with the European games you never know if you’re the underdog or not.
“Apollon were a prime example. No one knew a lot about them but you could see in the Europa League group stage they were a really good team.
“With Burnley, everyone knows what they’re about and what they achieved last season, so we know what to expect.
“They have a really good shape and defend really well. They are hard to break down and they won a lot of games 1-0 and 2-1 last season.
“It will be tough but we have to try to exploit their weaknesses.”
While the Dons would have preferred to have avoided a team of Burnley’s calibre so soon in the competition, Shinnie reckons the Clarets would not have been overly-excited about the prospect of a trip to Aberdeen for their first European tie for 51 years.
He said: “Burnley probably wanted to go abroad somewhere.
“I noticed a fan put a video up saying how long they’d waited to qualify for Europe and ended up in Scotland. I’m sure they will feel they can win the tie.
“It’s got all the makings of a really good game. If we won then they might think Scottish football isn’t so bad after all.
“There’s always a hype surrounding Scotland against England but it’s not on our minds.
“We’re just focusing on trying to get through and the rest is outwith our control.”
Shinnie has pinpointed 21-times capped England international Aaron Lennon as one of Burnley’s main threats.
He added: “Everyone knows what Aaron Lennon possesses.
“He has quick feet and is lightning over 10 yards.
“If you give him space and let him get crosses in then Burnley can hurt you.
“They have good strikers like Sam Vokes up front who can put the ball in the net.
“So, it’s not about stopping one player, it’s about not letting them play.
“It’s about disrupting their rhythm. You just have to get tight to people, show them into bodies and make sure you help your team-mates.
“They have a lot of players you need to stop and it is going to take a real team effort.”