Joe Lewis will lead his team out at the national stadium tomorrow afternoon, the Dons potentially ninety minutes away from just a second Scottish Cup final in the past two decades.
It’s a ninth semi under Derek McInnes, the side having won on half of the previous appearances, but only one of those – the thrilling victory over Hibernian in 2017 – has come in this tournament.
It will, of course, be a demanding occasion.
Celtic have won their last 34 domestic cup-ties and are looking to tie-up an unprecedented quadruple treble. Throw in the fact Aberdeen haven’t beaten them at Hampden since the League Cup semi-final in September 1992, and you can see what an historic achievement it will be if McInnes and his team pull it off.
They have certainly been getting closer to the champions; the recent run of results in Glasgow have consisted mainly of much narrower defeats, but also a draw and the win at the end of the 2017/18 season, and, given the fragile nature of Neil Lennon’s side right now, this has to be seen as a genuine opportunity to end Celtic’s domestic dominance.
It would also further puncture their confidence, have a damaging effect on their campaign going forwards and increase the pressure on Lennon and the Celtic board.
Since Brendan Rodgers took over at Parkhead, the team has responded to every challenge and seen off any threat to their rule. That continued following his sudden departure and his predecessor has enjoyed similar success.
It would be foolish to believe they are no longer capable of such a response, and may indeed use the criticism and speculation in a positive way. If they do, Celtic will probably prevail tomorrow, but does this group of players still have that mentality? Can they still rise to the occasion and maintain their winning run?
Given their recent run, it is an entirely reasonable question to ask, and the Dons certainly caused them significant problems in last weekend’s 3-3 thriller.
There has been plenty talk all week about which players Derek will choose, and there are many permutations. Much will depend on how he decides to approach the game. I would expect a fairly conservative start, the emphasis initially being on keeping Celtic quiet as Aberdeen feel their way into the match, but given their opponent’s present circumstances, there is a clear argument for beginning on the front foot and going for the jugular.
Scott Wright is certainly deserving of a start given his excellent contribution from the bench last Sunday, and the manager has to weigh-up if Sam Cosgrove is ready to begin the game. On balance it would seem more likely that last season’s top scorer will be kept in reserve as he returns to full fitness.
The defence will remain largely unaltered, the only question mark over the right-wing back slot. A variety of players could fill it, but I hope Derek resists the temptation to use Ross McCrorie there, instead pairing him up with Lewis Ferguson in what has become the best central midfield partnership in the Premiership.
It will be a somewhat surreal experience playing out such a massive game in an empty national stadium, but if the Dons repeat last week’s showing, they have a real chance of booking a return there just before Christmas.
Will Hearts be able to channel grievance into Scottish Cup win?
The other semi-final is a tight one to call.
As the Premiership side, Hibernian have to be seen as favourites and have the advantage of much more competitive action under their belts than their city rivals.
But Hearts have enjoyed a winning start to the season, have doled out some big Scottish Cup defeats to the men from Leith, and will feel they have every chance of upsetting the odds.
I have seen some terrible Edinburgh derbies, but also some nail-biters, and I have the sense that this evening’s encounter might just fall into the latter category.
Hearts still harbour resentment over how they feel they were mistreated at the end of last season; if they can channel that properly they might just prevail, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that one goes all the way to a penalty shoot-out.
However the games go, it promises to be a thrilling weekend at Hampden, one which justifies the Scottish FA’s determination to finish the competition off.