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Nicky Devlin says Aberdeen have to harden themselves for near-two-game-a-week fixture schedule up to winter break

The Dons are set to face 18 matches in just 10-and-a-half weeks from this Saturday's home Premiership clash with Dundee onwards.

Aberdeen's Nicky Devlin playing against Eintracht Frankfurt. Image: SNS.
Aberdeen's Nicky Devlin playing against Eintracht Frankfurt. Image: SNS.

Nicky Devlin says Aberdeen are steeling themselves for a “non-stop” schedule until the turn of the year ahead of their return to action at home to Dundee this weekend.

In the 10-and-a-half weeks from this Saturday’s Pittodrie Premiership meeting to Tuesday, January 2, Aberdeen will cram in 18 matches between league fixtures, Europa Conference League group games and their Viaplay Cup semi-final against Hibs.

Should Barry Robson’s Dons make it through to the League Cup final on December 17, it remains to be seen when their away league clash with St Johnstone – currently scheduled for that Sunday – will be moved to.

Mercifully, it will likely be rearranged for after the winter break, rather than increasing their pre-shutdown fixture load to 19 games.

With the recently-concluded international break bringing some down-time ahead of the schedule going into overdrive from this weekend, defender Devlin, 30, told Red TV: “We’re going into a period up until the winter break where it’s going to be two games a week now almost non-stop.

“We know that we have to be prepared for that.

“The performances potentially after European games have started to get better from what they were at first, so we know we have to improve on that and keep that going.

“There’s a lot of games coming and the squad’s going to need everyone to be ready to play their part.

“But it’s something we’re looking forward to, there’s some fantastic games in there for us and we’ll go into every game trying to win.”

Aberdeen set to rattle off big games in weeks ahead – with Dundee and PAOK to come in short order

Prior to breaking off for the international window, the Dons followed up a first Conference League point earned in a 1-1 Pittodrie draw against HJK Helsinki with a frustrating goalless Premiership stalemate against St Johnstone, also in the Granite City.

While right-back Devlin thinks his side are getting better in their domestic games following midweek Euro efforts, he wants the Reds – with several players having had a rest over the past week or so – to be more clinical when ex-Aberdeen assistant manager Tony Docherty brings his Dundee team to the north-east on Saturday.

Devlin said: “It (St Johnstone) was an improvement from the games previous coming off the European stuff.

St Johnstone’s Andy Considine heads into his own net against Aberdeen – a goal eventually ruled out for offside. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

“We weren’t very good at St Mirren coming off the European stuff, whereas (against) St Johnstone I think we could have played better but we still created quite a few chances where we could’ve went and won the game.

“Dundee will be a difficult game. They’ve started the season reasonably well. We know they’ve got threats and defensively they’ve not been losing too many games.

“There’s the whole connection that their manager used to be at the club, so there’ll be a wee bit on the game.

“But it’s one we’ll look to win, we’re at home and we want to win those games.”

After Dundee, Aberdeen host Group G leaders PAOK at Pittodrie on Thursday in the Conference League.

With just one point from their defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt and draw with Helsinki so far, Devlin thinks a victory against the Greek side also has to be the aim in the days ahead if the Dons are to have any chance of playing Continental knock-out phase football this term.

He added: “We could’ve been done with better results, but we’ve still got four games left, and it’s something we want to try to do going forward.

“If we want to qualify – which you always want to do at the start of the campaign – you probably need to have won by the end of the third round of fixtures. It’s something we’ll look to do.

“It’s obviously going to be a difficult game. They’ve started the campaign really well by winning both games.”

PAOK are at Pittodrie in the Europa Conference League on Thursday. Image: Shutterstock.

Big Euro games and Ibrox win will stand Dons in good stead for upcoming League Cup semi

With the Viaplay Cup semi-final meeting with Hibs also on the horizon on Saturday, November 4, summer signing Devlin – who previously contested a League Cup semi-final and then final with former club Livingston at Hampden in season 2020-21 – said:  “At Livingston, we lost the cup final to St Johnstone in the Covid season.

“Both teams will go into the game thinking they’ve got a great opportunity to reach a national final, and that’s the way we’ll approach it.”

Devlin added: “We’ll try to beat Hibs, as simple as that.

Aberdeen's Duk comes up against Hibs' Lewis Miller at Pittodrie.
Aberdeen will face Hibernian in the semi-final of the Viaplay Cup. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

“It’ll be difficult – their new manager has come in and they’ve picked up a wee bit of form as well, and we know going forward especially they’ve got a lot of threats. We seen that at Pittodrie this year already.”

Having already beaten Rangers 3-1 at Ibrox in the Premiership this term, and battled Bundesliga giants Frankfurt at their 60,000-seat Deutsche Bank Park, Devlin doesn’t think the Hampden environment will faze Robson’s Reds.

He said: “We’ve already been to one of the biggest teams in the country this season (Rangers) and won there comfortably.”

Nicky Devlin celebrating on the pitch
Nicky Devlin celebrates as Aberdeen go 1-0 up in the 3-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox. Image: SNS.

‘Building partnerships is much easier when you are playing as many games’

Devlin is part of an improving Aberdeen defence who have kept three clean sheets in their past five Premiership matches – with the team also on a five-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

Playing alongside right-back Devlin, Aberdeen’s first-choice back three of Stefan Gartenmann, Slobodan Rubezic and Richard Jensen are all also summer signings.

Prior to this week, deadline-day loan addition Gartenmann had “only had about five or six proper training sessions” since his arrival, according to team-mate Devlin.

While this rare few days of regular training at Cormack Park will help the backline continue to knit together, Devlin is convinced the deluge of domestic and European action to come will also result in further bonding between the rearguard.

He said: “Building partnerships is much easier when you are playing as many games – that’s the upside. You do form those partnerships a bit quicker and easier.

“These kind of partnerships and the bond in the dressing room is going to get us far this year, and we have to keep building on them, keep trying to form those relationships and help them grow.”