Midfielder Dante Polvara insists underdogs Aberdeen can overcome the “toxic” atmosphere at the stadium known as The Black Hell and shock PAOK.
The Dons face Greek Super League side PAOK at the notorious 28,000-capacity Toumba Stadium in Euro action on Thursday.
Such is the intimidating atmosphere PAOK’s stadium is renowned as The Black Hell.
Polvara insists he won’t be fazed by the infamous PAOK crowd as he he has already experienced toxic atmospheres in Scotland.
Aberdeen will be backed by an 800-strong travelling support for the Europa Conference League Group G clash.
The fixture was given an added edge when PAOK boss Răzvan Lucescu hit out at Dons full-back Nicky Devlin in the pre-match press conference in Thessaloniki.
Lucescu slated Devlin for throwing a kiss at him during celebrations after Aberdeen went 2-0 up against PAOK at Pittodrie.
Group leaders PAOK hit back with three late goals to win 3-2 and floor the Dons.
Polvara said: “The atmosphere is going to be quite toxic but in Scotland it can be that at times.
“This is what you want to be part of as a footballer.
“And you wouldn’t want it any other way.
“However you want to describe the atmosphere, the bottom line is it will be exciting and loud.
“That is what you play football for.”
‘Two passionate teams, two passionate clubs and support base’
Devlin had also previously hit out at PAOK players for celebrating their dramatic late winner at Pittodrie in his face.
Polvara was quick to extinguish any notion of bad blood between the teams, insisting it was just high emotions from passionate players.
And he is confident those incidents will not affect the Dons’ preparations nor game play.
He said: “To be fair it is not something that was discussed much in the dressing room, even after the match.
“Even in the moment and reflecting on it now with hindsight I still see it as two passionate teams, two passionate clubs and support groups.
“When there is a lot on the line in Europe I wouldn’t expect it to be any different to boys being boys and having a go at each other and enjoying the moment.
“One minute you’re winning, the next you’re losing so a lot of emotions are involved.
“But I don’t think it is anything personal so I wouldn’t really expect us to approach the game any differently.
“I don’t think the boys are viewing it any differently.”
Delivering a Euro group upset
PAOK have a 100% record in Group G having beaten Aberdeen, Eintracht Frankfurt and HJK Helsinki.
Polvara accepts the odds are stacked against the Dons out here in Greece.
However he retains confidence the Reds possess enough quality to upset those odds.
With only one point from nine Aberdeen’s slim hopes of progressing from the group are hanging precariously by a thread.
Polvara explained the Reds will fight to realise that qualification target until it is “mathematically impossible” not to progress.
He said: “We have been unlucky not to have more points on the board at this stage after the first three games.
“We have had a tough schedule domestically and managed to deliver some upsets this season.
“We have a lot of quality in the changing room and I hope that shows on Thursday.
“With this team we are quite tight together and as long as it is mathematically still possible (qualifying) we will keep going.
“We know we can upset teams.”
Polvara’s Euro scoring hot streak
Polvara has scored in two of Aberdeen’s three group stage games to date.
He netted a sensational goal in the 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany in the group opener.
The midfielder also netted in the 3-2 loss to PAOK.
He is determined to continue that Euro scoring streak in Greece.
The 23-year-old said: “I would like to score in every game if possible.
“Scoring my first goal at Pittodrie (against PAOK) was great.
“I will be doing my best to put one in the net on Thursday.
“It is good for our confidence knowing that we can score goals against this team.
“However we also know how dangerous they are.”
Why Polvara crossed himself in semi
Polvara has also pitched in with assists this season and played the through ball for Bojan Miovski to score in the 1-0 Viaplay Cup semi-final defeat of Hibs.
After releasing the pass Polvara made the sign of the cross as he watched Miovski race in on goal.
He explained why.
Polvara said: “I honestly didn’t even realise until after the game and someone pointed it out to me!
“I’m not really a superstitious person but all through my youth career when someone was through on goal I did that.
“Obviously there were no cameras there to catch it in my youth games, but it was picked up this time.
“I thought it was quite funny.
“It’s just me giving good luck and sending strength to whoever it is in that moment.
“I’m glad it worked and Bojan was able to put the ball in the net!”