Graeme Shinnie says Aberdeen are determined to make up for their post-European night struggles when they visit Celtic in the Premiership on Sunday.
The skipper admits trying to perform in Thursday night Europe League play-off matches then Europa Conference League group stage fixtures, as well as in their domestic games, has been a mental and physical grind for the Dons in the opening months of this term.
He thinks the toll taken on them has been reflected in disappointing showings like the league losses to Hibs (2-1) and Kilmarnock (2-0), and the goalless stalemate with St Johnstone – which all came on Sundays which have followed European fixtures.
Barry Robson’s side head to Premiership champions Celtic this weekend, having played out a thrilling 2-2 Conference League group draw with PAOK in Thessaloniki, Greece, on Thursday.
Shinnie hopes – this time – the Dons will be able to get their energy levels back up in time to deliver a strong display in Glasgow.
He said: “The big thing is the turnaround now – getting home, resting. We’ve got a big game down at Celtic (on Sunday), so we’ll be travelling again on Saturday, down to Glasgow.”
Shinnie wants “exactly the same” type of gritty performance Aberdeen put on at PAOK when they take on the Hoops.
Although the Dons’ draw at Toumba Stadium means, with two group matches remaining, they are now mathematically unable to progress to the Conference League’s knock-out phase, their battling showing in Greece satisfied supporters.
Shinnie added: “We’ve definitely struggled after European nights. They take a lot out of you mentally and physically as well, so it’s been a massive learning curve.
“I think where we are – the league’s really tight, and nobody’s really ran away… The top two have a little bit, but we’re right in the fight, we’re in a cup final as well, and we’ve been very competitive in Europe.
“So overall, where we are right now, we’re happy.
“But we want to put things right on Sunday in terms of getting a performance after a European night.”
Skipper ‘extremely proud’ on Dons’ draw at PAOK – but left with ‘what if?’ feeling after other Europa Conference League group games
On Thursday, Jamie McGrath’s stunning late free-kick secured a point against a PAOK side who had won their first three group matches, including a victory at the intimidating Toumba over Eintracht Frankfurt.
Denting PAOK’s 100% record was a small measure of revenge for the Dons after they led 2-0 against the Greeks at Pittodrie two weeks ago, only to suffer a sickening late collapse to lose 3-2.
Shinnie was left “extremely proud” by the Reds’ efforts at PAOK, but admits the close nature of their first three Euro group games – a 2-1 defeat in Frankfurt, 1-1 home draw with HJK Helsinki and the Granite City reverse to PAOK – have left Aberdeen wondering ‘what if?’ regarding reaching the knock-out stages.
With the Dons having been left with just two points to show for their efforts across four pool fixtures, the captain said: “PAOK have got a great home record – they beat Frankfurt. They beat Olympiacos at the weekend 4-2.
“So they’re a very strong team at home and we’ve come over and went toe-to-toe with them.
“We’re extremely proud of our performance – being 1-0 up and them going 2-1 up – to have the character to come back and get the draw.”
Shinnie added: “The game at home to PAOK was a bit of frustrating one. If we’d won that game the group would’ve been wide open.
“Losing the game, it almost went the opposite way.
“We knew we needed to win on Thursday to have any chance of going through, but it’s very tough going to a place like that, and their record at home has been good.
“Frankfurt couldn’t win there, and we went toe-to-toe with them (PAOK).
“We gave it absolutely everything and, like I said, we can be proud of what we’ve did.”
Shinnie: We’ll take our rest during international break after hectic few weeks
Sunday’s Premiership game at Celtic is the final game for Aberdeen before the latest international break.
Following a week where the Dons thumped Motherwell 4-2 at Fir Park in the league to move up the table, then dramatically beat Hibs 1-0 with 10 men at Hampden to set up a Viaplay Cup final with Rangers next month, before taking a steely point at PAOK, the break could be arriving just as Robson’s Reds are building up a real head of steam for the first time this season.
While acknowledging the momentum Aberdeen have built in the last few games, Shinnie thinks the international window will provide valuable respite during what is a pre-winter break fixture deluge for the Dons across all competitions.
Shinnie said: “It’s definitely been a stop-start season for us.
“We’ve had some great results – some great performances that maybe go a bit unnoticed, but we’ve felt momentum out of them.
“It’s been a great few results for us (over the past week) and we’ll take that momentum into Sunday and take our rest after that in the international break with the amount of travelling and games that we’ve had.
“One big push on Sunday and then we take a break.”