Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has challenged his players to relish the pressure of trying to reach the Europa League play-off round by defeating Kairat Almaty at Pittodrie tonight.
The Dons have already defeated Macedonian side Shkendija and Rijeka of Croatia, but have their work cut out to get past Kairat to earn a place in tomorrow’s Europa League play-off draw.
The Kazakh side, who trained at Pittodrie last night, hold a 2-1 lead from last Thursday’s first leg and McInnes’ men will need to score this evening if they are to remain in the competition.
Victory would put them on the cusp of the lucrative group stages and McInnes wants the chance to extend the continental campaign.
The Dons manager said: “For any team to progress through the rounds it’s getting tougher and tougher. Apart from the Latvian side Daugava Riga last year, we’ve not had an easy game. Every one has been tough – the Macedonians, the Croatians, and last year we had Groningen and Real Sociedad – tough draws.
“So we’re having to do it the hard way. Like any cup competition, the level of opposition tends to get harder the further you move along.
“It would be an absolutely brilliant achievement even to reach the play-off round. And then even better to win again to get to the group stages.
“For a Scottish team to reach the group stage would be a real achievement.
“Anyone would have to define that as a successful European campaign if we can get there.
“We want to try to enjoy this as much as we can, but we also put ourselves under pressure to go as far as we can.”
A prolonged stint in the Europa League would test the depth of McInnes’ squad.
But the manager, whose side defeated Dundee United 1-0 on Sunday, wants to stay in the competition for as long as possible.
He added: “We want to do as well as we can in all cup competitions and try to take the benefits. Even at the weekend, what advantage United had in terms of freshness and preparation we probably had over them in competitive games.
“The experience the players gain playing in these sorts of games and travelling to different places with the pressure to get results is all part of the development.
“We would rather have that than getting dumped out of Europe and watching other teams. We are glad to be involved and we are trying to get as much from it as possible.
“It is challenging and certainly would be if we got to the group stages, but I am reluctant to talk about that when there is a lot of football to be played.”
The Dons will again be without the injured Mark Reynolds.