Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes has warned Rangers the Dons will be a different beast from the energy-sapped one they faced on the opening day of the season.
A laboured 1-1 draw against 10-man Gers in August led to new Ibrox boss Steven Gerrard criticising the Dons, stating his side were a “class above” their opponents.
However, that game came 72 hours after a draining Europa League tie against Burnley which went to extra-time, with the squad not arriving back in the Granite City until 5am on the Friday morning.
McInnes said: “Physically we were nowhere near it on the first day of the season – we were awful. But there were reasons for that, we’d played Burnley and pushed them close over normal time then extra time on the Thursday night, then didn’t get back until 5am. So there was a physical factor, although I was disappointed with our game intelligence that day.
“We had fatigue in our heads and fatigue in our minds on the opening game of the season. This time round, we have had a much better chance to prepare for it. So I expect us to be better physically and hopefully we will be better in all aspects, because clearly we will have to be.
“Rangers have dealt with the European games this season particularly well and I think a blind man can see they are hands-down better than what they were over the last few seasons. There is something more believable and authentic about this Rangers team. You can see that in the way they work, there is more discipline to them and there is more energy in them.
The big-game atmosphere at Hampden should certainly be nothing new to the Dons players, given their regular appearances in the latter stages of cup competitions in recent years.
McInnes sought the advice of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson on how to combat any pre-match nerves from the players, with the European Cup-winning boss admitting even he was sometimes left stumped.
McInnes added: “I spoke to Sir Alex about it, he had internationals with 70-odd caps, who had won leagues and played in cup finals. But sometimes they just didn’t settle in games like these and he just pointed out sometimes it happens.
“There are days when the level of performance just isn’t there, no matter the level you’re playing at. So we have to make sure we start well, that’s hugely important, but sometimes you just don’t know.
“As a manager you are learning about your team all the time, we have had big games over the years and Sunday is another one.”