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McInnes has sights set on European group stages

Derek McInnes
Derek McInnes

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes is targeting the group stages of European football next season.

The Dons have secured their place in Europe for a third successive season. Having lost out in the third qualifying round in each of the last two campaigns, the Aberdeen manager wants his side to make a bigger impression in the next campaign.

The Dons have qualified for the Europa League but Champions League football remains possible if they can pip champions Celtic to the Scottish Premiership title.

Regardless of the level of European football the Dons will play next summer, McInnes wants his side to make an impact.

The Aberdeen manager said: “Qualifying for Europe in March with eight games to go is great recognition of what we have achieved, but hopefully we have bigger challenges ahead.

“For a while this club wasn’t in Europe and it should be a bare minimum for Aberdeen.

“It will be another short summer, but a little bit longer than the last two. As it stands the players should get just shy of four weeks off which is an acceptable amount of downtime for them with their families.

“European football is something we want to do well in and we have enjoyed ourselves in the last two years. But we want to qualify for the group stages and that would be a significant step forward in our improvement.”

Aberdeen’s title hopes were dented by defeat at Motherwell in their last outing before the international but with four points separating the teams at the top of the table after Sunday’s excellent 3-0 home win against Hamilton, McInnes is not ready to throw the towel in yet.

Goals from Simon Church, Niall McGinn and Kenny McLean kept Aberdeen on the heels of the champions.

The Hoops can extend their lead to seven points with victory at Dundee tonight but McInnes said: “I don’t think anybody within this club feels the season is a write-off. We will finish where we deserve to finish, but we want to keep this going for as long as we can and see where it takes us.

“The players’ ability is not in question, it’s just a case of trying to get those performances out of them.

“We showed it against Hamilton by playing on the front foot and asking questions of the opposition. When we do that it is difficult for any team to deal with.”

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