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Joe Harper: Aberdeen must try to emulate class of 2007 by qualifying from European group stages

Pittodrie will be key to Aberdeen's European campaign as the Red Army create an inspirational atmosphere under the floodlights

Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie celebrating after scoring to make it 2-against St Mirren.
Aberdeen skipper Graeme Shinnie. celebrates scoring a goal in the 3-0 defeat of St Mirren that secured European qualification. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

Aberdeen must look to emulate the team of 2007-08 by progressing from the group stages of Europe.

I believe manager Barry Robson is building a team that can be capable of delivering on that target.

Anticipation is mounting within the Red Army ahead of the club’s first campaign in the group stages of Europe for 16 years.

That anticipation will hit fever pitch when the Dons discover their Europa League play-off opponents during the draw on Monday, August 7.

In 2007 Jimmy Calderwood’s Dons progressed to the knock-out stages of the UEFA Cup from a group that comprised Atletico Madrid, FC Copenhagen, Panathinaikos and Lokomotiv Moscow.

The reward was a glamour tie against German giants Bayern Munich in the knock-out stage.

Keeper Kelle Roos celebrates Aberdeen qualifying for Europe. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Barry Robson’s rebuilt Aberdeen side must look to replicate that success this season.

Obviously it won’t be easy but this is a golden opportunity for the Dons to make their mark in Europe again.

And they have to take it.

I believe Pittodrie will be key to Aberdeen’s ambitions of qualifying from the group stages this season.

There is something special about European nights at Pittodrie under the floodlights.

Aberdeen’s Angus MacDonald celebrating after the Dons guaranteed European football. Image: SNS.

I got shivers down my spine when I played for the Dons at home in Europe.

And I still get shivers down my spine when I watch the Dons play on that continental stage at Pittodrie.

The stadium is always rocking for European nights and the passion of the fans can work twofold.

It can inspire the Dons players to reach high levels and secure a positive result.

A raucous Pittodrie can also intimidate some European clubs, obviously not them all.

You just have to look at the 4-0 defeat of FC Copenhagen in December 2007 when the Dons blew away the Danish side.

That was the win that secured qualification from the UEFA Cup group stages.

Aberdeen fans lit up Pittodrie and there was an inspirational, uplifting atmosphere within the stadium.

That drove the players on who, out on the pitch, delivered a performance against Copenhagen that matched the passion and belief of the supporters.

These are exciting times for Aberdeen and the club’s support as the Reds are guaranteed group stage football no matter the outcome of the play-offs.

If they triumph in the play-offs Barry Robson’s side will compete in the group stages of the Europa League.

Aberdeen’s Connor Barron celebrates at full time against St Mirren after securing European qualification. Image: SNS

Should they lose the play-offs the Dons will drop into the Conference League groups.

Either way Aberdeen will have eight guaranteed European games.

The target is to ensure there is more than eight games by reaching the knock-out stages.

It will be difficult because Aberdeen will have to balance the demands of Europe with domestic responsibilities.

So far Aberdeen have made seven signings in the transfer window and they all add something to the team.

New Aberdeen signing Or Dadia. Image: Aberdeen FC.

It has been a strong transfer window so far but more depth is still needed to cope with Thursday night Euro action and then Sunday domestic games.

Crucially the Dons have players with experience of European football.

Captain Graeme Shinnie racked up the games in Europe during his previous time at Pittodrie from 2015 to 2019.

Jonny Hayes has a wealth of experience in Europe with Aberdeen and Celtic.

Israeli international right-back loan signing Or Dadia has played in the group stages of the Europa League and Conference League.

Summer signing Leighton Clarkson started a Champions League group game with Liverpool as has Rhys Williams, who is on loan from the Anfield club.

After 16 years Aberdeen are back in the group stages of Europe and they must go all out to make the most of it by qualifying for the knock-out round.

Aberdeen’s Leighton Clarkson celebrates making it 2-0 during a pre-season friendly between Turriff United and Aberdeen at The Haughs. Image: SNS

Bojan Miovski return a timely boost

Thankfully striker Bojan Miovski has battled back from an ankle injury in time to feature during the pre-season friendlies.

Miovski returned to action as a substitute in the second half of the 2-0 friendly loss at Preston North End at the weekend.

The North Macedonian international suffered the injury in the 3-0 win against St Mirren in May when he was stretchered off.

It was great to see Miovski back in action at Deepdale as it is vital he gets game time during the pre-season friendlies.

Aberdeen’s Bojan Miovski (L) and Preston’s Calvin Ramsay during a pre-season friendly match. Image: SNS

He should get more time against Charlton Athletic in London tomorrow as he works up to reaching match sharpness and fitness.

Miovski pitched in with 18 goals in all competitions last season which is a good return.

With Duk also netting 18 goals the Dons had a potent attack.

The signing of Ester Sokler in the summer transfer window will further bolster that.

Aberdeen need strikers who will score a minimum of 15 to 20 goals every season.

We know they already have two in Miovski and Duk.

Aberdeen’s Bojan Miovski during the 2-0 pre-season friendly loss to Preston North End. Image: SNS

Hopefully they will have a third with Sokler who arrived on a three-year deal.

It will be great for manager Barry Robson to have three players of a high calibre fighting for that starting spots.

And the players that do get the nod to start will know there is competition on the bench waiting to come on and take their spot.

That is what a successful club needs, that healthy competition.

With Miovski, Duk and Sokler the Reds will be a dangerous proposition for defenders.

Aberdeen’s Ester Sokler has a shot at goal during a pre-season friendly match against Preston North End. Image: SNS

Final preparations against Charlton

Aberdeen’s pre-season will conclude tomorrow with a friendly against English League One Charlton Athletic in London.

This is the final run-out before the Dons face Livingston in the Premiership opener the following weekend.

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson (R) and coach Steve Agnew during the pre-season friendly at Preston North End. Image: SNS.

Manager Barry Robson has spent pre-season instilling his tactics and playing philosophy into the rebuilt squad.

Charlton is the final opportunity to work on that in a game environment before the real action begins.