Aberdeen need a performance and result in Greece on the same level as the odds-defying defeat of Rijeka in 2015.
To keep alive slim hopes of progressing from Group G, the Dons must deliver what Euro big-hitters Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Arsenal and Tottenham failed to achieve – win at PAOK’s Toumba Stadium.
Barry Robson’s side will chase that formidable target when facing Group G leaders PAOK in Thessaloniki in the Europa Conference League tomorrow.
PAOK are undefeated at home in Europe this season and beat Bundesliga giants Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 last month.
The 28,000 capacity stadium is renowned for the intimidating atmosphere created by the passionate, partisan support.
Aberdeen touched down in Greece with their mission statement clear – secure a shock victory against the group leaders in their own backyard.
It is all or nothing for the Dons out here in Thessaloniki as anything less than a victory will end their already highly tenuous hopes of progressing from the group.
A draw or defeat and Aberdeen’s Group G campaign is over and they will effectively be condemned to playing out two dead rubbers in the final fixtures.
However a win would re-ignite aspirations of progression from the group.
It can be done as Aberdeen exploited weaknesses in PAOK when holding a 2-0 lead at Pittodrie with 17 minutes remaining.
The only problem is that PAOK also exposed Aberdeen’s weaknesses, although primarily by exploiting individual errors, to secure a dramatic 3-2 win.
Aberdeen have impressed for stages in all three games in Group G.
They will need that level for the entire 90 minutes at the Toumba Stadium.
How big a win do the Dons need at POAK?
How big a result do Aberdeen need in Greece?
One of the same level that saw Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen side shock Croatian top flight outfit HNK Rijeka in 2015.
Rijeka were 12 games unbeaten in European competition at their Stadion Kantrida.
Even then reigning Europa League champions Sevilla had failed to win at the stadium the season before the Dons played in Croatia.
Rijeka were unbeaten in 24 games in all competition at home prior to facing the Dons.
They lost 3-0 to Aberdeen on July 15, 2015.
Rijeka’s previous home defeat before being shocked by the Dons was a 2-1 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb on league action on September 21, 2014.
Aberdeen shocked the Croatian club in searing heat through goals from Andrew Considine, Peter Pawlett and Kenny McLean.
The Dons will need lightning to strike twice when they go against PAOK tomorrow.
Robson’s side no longer have the element of surprise as POAK will be on red alert as to the potential dangers of the Reds.
The Group G leader were close to losing at Pittodrie.
That match delivered a brutal European lesson to Aberdeen about the fine margins at this level.
Lessons learned must be that defensive errors are clinically punished and scoring opportunities must be converted.
This is only the second time Aberdeen have competed in the group stages of Europe.
The other occasion was in the 2007-08 UEFA Cup when the Reds progressed to the knock-out phase.
Aberdeen, under Jimmy Calderwood, progressed to set up a last-32 clash with Bayern Munich despite losing their away group games.
The Reds lost to 3-0 to Greek side Panathinaikos and 2-0 to Spain’s Atletico Madrid.
After losing 2-1 in Germany to Eintracht Frankfurt the hunt for a first ever group stage away win continues.
Aberdeen qualified from the groups 16-years ago despite failing to win away from home.
There will be no repeat this time if they cannot overturn the odds to beat PAOK at the Toumba Stadium.
Maradona mural inside PAOK’s stadium
A mural of legend Diego Maradona is painted inside PAOK’s Toumba Stadium.
The fantastic piece is in tribute to the Argentinian legend’s appearance at the stadium in Europe with Napoli in the UEFA Cup in 1988.
Italian giants Napoli won the first leg 1-0.
Such was the intense desire to watch the world’s greatest footballer in action all 48,000 (the then capacity) for the return leg at the Toumba Stadium quickly sold out.
Napoli went 1-0 ahead in Greece courtesy of Careca before PAOK levelled to secure a legendary result that is still commemorated.
In the aftermath of the game Maradona praised the PAOK fans and the atmosphere they created.
Maradona said: “I’ve played many games but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
That quote is written on the mural in the stadium.
Maradona was blown away by the atmosphere in the Toumba Stadium.
How will Aberdeen react to the intimidating cauldron?
We will find out tomorrow evening.
The calm before the storm
Whilst in Thessaloniki to report on Aberdeen’s game I will embrace the opportunity to explore a beautiful city during any downtime.
A must-see is the fortified White Tower on the seafront which is Thessaloniki’s main landmark.
From the White Tower there is a stunning view of the city and Mediterranean Sea.
There is a glorious promenade which offers relaxing walks and glorious views.
It is the calm before the storm of the Dons game at the Toumba Stadium.