Aberdeen manager Barry Robson has urged his players to show him they are deserving of a League Cup final place, starting against Kilmarnock.
The Dons return to Pittodrie tonight when they welcome former manager Derek McInnes and his Killie side in the Premiership.
With three games to play before the Viaplay Cup final against Rangers – all at home – Robson wants to see his players’ desire for a place in the team at Hampden on December 17.
He said: “Everybody is competing for places in the cup final, so the focus will be on Killie.
“The players picked have to perform, and the better they perform, the better their chances are of playing in the final.
“Five of our next six are at home. We knew Europe and the league would be a challenge, but what we need to do now is start picking up points and get ourselves up the table.
“I hope the run of home games will help us do that, but they are all going to be tough games.”
Dons boss makes his case for the defence
The Dons return to Pittodrie in need of improving their defensive record after keeping just four clean sheets in all competitions so far this season.
The Aberdeen manager insists it is individual errors rather than a defensive weakness which has cost his side dear, but has backed his backline to improve.
Robson said: “It’s a whole new defence as we lost Ross McCrorie, Liam Scales and Mattie Pollock.
“We had to rebuild that and it’s not ideal when you have to replace that amount.
“It took us until the end of the window to get everyone in and they have actually performed really well.
“We have made mistakes and individual errors have cost us.
“In defence it costs you, but in other parts of the team you can get away with it.
“But I’m pretty confident we’ll get back to keeping clean sheets.”
Slobodan Rubezic was culpable for Hibernian’s first goal in their 2-0 win against the Dons on Sunday.
Rubezic has made mistakes since arriving in the summer, but Robson is convinced the central defender – who will miss the home game against Livingston on December 20 due to suspension – will eradicate the errors.
He said: “He’s a talented boy.
“He’s a young player who needs to do his learning, but he’s a great kid.
“He’ll have a really bright future in the game just like a few other players we’ve got here.
“As a young player everybody makes mistakes, but it’s not something I want to go into.
“We speak to him and we have other young players who make mistakes. We have older ones as well. But he’s a terrific kid.”
‘We have to make sure we perform’
Robson regards the display in Ayrshire as one of the poorest of the campaign and hopes to see his side produce a much-improved performance tonight.
He said: “They are a good side and Derek McInnes has built a strong squad there. I expect a tough game.
“We will analyse Killie for who they are and what they have done on the pitch.
“We’ve had a few disappointments off the back of European games, but Rugby Park is never traditionally an easy place to go.
“We should have performed better on the day and it was a day where we didn’t perform and Killie did, and we ended up losing the game.
“We’re at home now and we have to make sure we perform.”