Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has challenged his young side to show their big game mentality when they try to close the gap on Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday.
The Dons trail second-placed Rangers by eight points with four games remaining but head to Ibrox with confidence after beating Steven Gerrard’s side three times in Glasgow this season, twice at Ibrox with the other win coming in the Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden.
The Aberdeen manager expects to see more of that attitude as his side goes for a clean sweep of Ibrox wins against the Light Blues.
He said: “We want to put our best foot forward and I’ve always felt confident going into these types of games. We’ve had enough experience of this sort of fixture and we’ve largely been competitive in our visits to Glasgow this season.
“As a manager it’s great to be able to rely on these players and it has been a real benefit to us this season.”
Aberdeen’s impressive hat-trick of wins against Rangers in Glasgow has come in a campaign where the Dons have relied on younger players in their side and McInnes believes the performances of the young players augurs well for the future.
With Dons captain Graeme Shinnie struggling to make the game after suffering an ankle injury and Niall McGinn, Shay Logan and Gary Mackay-Steven all ruled out it will be the younger members of the squad who will again be asked to step-up.
McInnes said: “We’ve had to deal with being without big players for key games for a while now so we can’t be too hung up on who is available and who is missing. It’s another opportunity for our young players to step up as they have done all season.
“I’ve put together three or four different squads in my time here and the squad this year have shown great temperament in the bigger fixtures. Connor McLennan, Scott McKenna and Lewis Ferguson have become mainstays in the team and they have not been fazed by these big games.
“We’ll set ourselves up to give ourselves the best chance of winning the game and any Aberdeen team should be hard working and have the confidence and ability to go and play in these big games.”
One man who will be available is striker Sam Cosgrove. The attacker has scored 20 goals for his side this season but with taken off at half-time in his side’s 1-0 win at Kilmarnock on Saturday following a combative first-half against the Killie defence which led to him being booked.
However, McInnes will not try to change his forward’s aggressive style.
He said: “I think Sam Cosgrove gets a raw deal. I did not think he did too much wrong on Saturday.
“I had to get him off. The type of game, he was potentially going in half-hearted towards the end of that half.
“But Sam is in his first full season as a senior player and his return suggests he is more than a lot of people probably thought when we signed him.”