Former Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes believes Hibernian will be disappointed not to have taken their chances to end the Dons’ hopes of pipping them to third place.
The two sides meet for the final time tomorrow with Aberdeen looking for the win which will take them level with Hibs going into the final round of fixtures on Saturday.
Victory for Jack Ross’ side ensures they will finish third in the Premiership, however, and McInnes believes the big game at Pittodrie is too close to call.
Speaking to Football Pass, the former Dons boss said: “It’s vitally important for both teams. Hibs, when the fixtures came out for the post-split, would have liked to have this put to bed before the game came around.
“Aberdeen on the other hand would have been wanting this game to be as relevant as it is. With Hibs losing to St Johnstone in the league it has given Aberdeen the opportunity to make the most of the fixture and only a win will do.
“We won 2-0 earlier in the season against Hibs and it was a tight match but a very good performance from my side. It will take another big performance from Aberdeen to beat Hibs.”
A draw would likely be enough to the Easter Road side given their superior goal difference but McInnes believes the need to win might suit his former club.
He said: “Hibs, they know a draw will do for them for the game and that can be problematic going into a game.
“They can use Saturday’s game against Celtic as an opportunity to rest players ahead of the cup final but Aberdeen will see this as a real lifeline, a must-win game and a chance to take it to the final game.
“Obviously Aberdeen have to go to Ibrox on Saturday to play Rangers but they want that final game to have some importance and only a win does them. It’s finely poised, all to play for. Hibs are in the driving seat but if Aberdeen win this it keeps the whole thing moving along for them.”
McInnes has been enjoying his time away from the game following his departure from Pittodrie in March but he admits to missing that feeling of being at Hampden after covering both Scottish Cup finals at the weekend as a pundit for television.
He said: “Having been a player-manager originally at St Johnstone at 36 I’ve not really had a break. It was a short period of time in between Bristol City and Aberdeen so I’m trying to use this time wisely, enjoy it with the family, get my golf handicap down and catch up with people I don’t ordinarily get to see as I’m normally so busy.
“Aberdeen was always more than a job for me, it was a fantastic period for me and I really enjoyed it, worked with some good people, but I’m enjoying the bits of TV work I’ve done.
“I enjoyed the two semi-finals and the analysis I did on that but when it comes to Saturday and Sunday I’d rather be in the dugout experiencing the semi-final occasions and that opportunity to take the team to the final,.
“We did that numerous occasions. In the 15 domestic cup competitions we were in we got to 11 semi-finals so I know what all the managers have been through at the weekend. There will be huge elation for two of them and huge disappointment for a couple of lads as well.
“I felt for the losing managers but I’m also pleased for the two guys who will be in the final in Callum Davidson and Jack Ross, two guys I know well.”
The stage is set for a thrilling finale to the Premiership with so many issues still to be decided in the final week of the season.
McInnes is expecting an exciting finish but is in no doubt the big game tomorrow is at Victoria Park where Ross County host Hamilton Accies in a vital game at the bottom of the table.
He said: “The fixture that screams out is the Ross County v Hamilton game. Ross County are in the stronger position and Hamilton have to win the game. For County maybe a draw wouldn’t be the worst result for them but knowing John Hughes he will want to secure that win he feels he needs.
“For Hamilton they can’t afford to lose that game, they have to try to take it to the last game. We’ve seen Hamilton find a way to dig out results at this time of the season.
“Rangers have won the league but the fight for third place is still there, Europe in fifth place between St Johnstone and Livingston is still there, the best of the rest but certainly the fixtures with the most at stake is the Ross County and Hamilton fixture.”
With the campaign reaching its conclusion votes are being cast for player and manager of the year. The former Dons boss believes Rangers are on course to collect both accolades.
He said: “Both competitions bring a bone of contention with it. The player of the season has to come from someone in a Rangers jersey. For me it is James Tavernier. He’s led the team as captain but I think he has come up with so many important goals and assists.
“There have been question marks in recent seasons but he has really stood up in important occasions. For a full back to affect the game in the final third as much as he does is incredible.
“For me Steven Gerrard, with so much on the season, they had to win that title this year, especially with the way the cups have panned out.
“The pressure of stopping Celtic from winning 10 in a row, they dealt with that fantastically and if they go through the league season unbeaten it would be huge recognition of the work done there.
“They’ve carried the flag for the SPFL in Europe and for a team like Rangers to go through so many difficult fixtures and play with style and authority in the way they have done, they have flown the flag brilliantly for Scottish football.
“Due to that Stevie just nicks it ahead of Callum Davidson for me.”