More­los is too tough for one man to han­dle, says McInnes

Scottish Daily Mail - - Football - JOHN GREECHAN

MANY have tried, many have failed. Lay­ing out a de­fen­sive strat­egy in­tended to stop Al­fredo More­los in his tracks must feel like plot­ting to nail jelly to a wall. With a nail made of pa­pier-mâché.

So yes, on the most ba­sic level, Derek McInnes will know be­fore a ball is kicked whether his Aberdeen play­ers are men­tally ready to face Rangers in a test of char­ac­ter at Pit­to­drie.

But the fact re­mains that the Dons could play well, im­prov­ing sig­nif­i­cantly on their pre­vi­ous out­ings against both Celtic and Rangers this sea­son, and still be un­done by a mo­ment of bril­liance.

When it comes to the can­di­dates ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing a little par­cel of ex­cel­lence? Look no fur­ther than the Colom­bian with 25 goals to his name al­ready this sea­son.

McInnes, ad­dress­ing the ob­vi­ous threat posed by El Bu­falo, knows that he can­not sim­ply de­ploy one de­fender to shackle the all-ac­tion 23-year-old.

‘More­los doesn’t just stand against the cen­tre-half,’ said the Aberdeen boss (right). ‘He can oc­cupy the en­tire back four be­cause he finds space and drifts off, so it’s not just one player that has to be aware of his threat.

‘Watch­ing the game against Feyeno­ord in the Europa League last week, he scored two goals out of noth­ing — two un­be­liev­able qual­ity head­ers out of noth­ing.

‘That got Rangers a very im­por­tant point, and play­ers of that abil­ity are in­valu­able in any team. He is a young player who is im­prov­ing — and is cer­tainly one we have to han­dle.

‘Ev­ery man­ager, at the minute, is up against the same is­sues when they play against Rangers and Celtic.

‘How do you stop the qual­ity of their pos­ses­sion? How do you stop the quick­ness of their move­ment? The in­di­vid­ual play, their in­ten­sity.

‘Both teams are go­ing great guns at the mo­ment.

‘We know we have to do a lot right on Wed­nes­day night to make the game go our way. We have to be clin­i­cal and we have got a boy at the top of the pitch who is in bril­liant form. We’ve got a goal­keeper who is sec­ond to none in the league.

‘We’ve got good enough ex­pe­ri­ence and some good in­di­vid­ual play­ers start­ing the game, so it’s im­por­tant we bring it all to­gether and give our­selves the best chance of get­ting the re­sult we want.

‘We can all wax lyri­cal about the pos­i­tives of this Rangers team. They’re a good side.

‘When you play against a team who have that real at­tack­ing threat, it’s im­por­tant you get the balance right be­tween at­tack­ing and de­fend­ing.

‘We’ve got to carry a threat in the game and a way of caus­ing them prob­lems.’

Asked whether lessons had been learned from the lack of oomph put into per­for­mances that ended in 5-0 and 4-0 losses against Rangers and Celtic re­spec­tively this sea­son, McInnes stressed: ‘It’s too easy to say that.’

The one thing Aberdeen fans should be guar­an­teed to­mor­row night, though, is a step up in tempo from a Dons side made to look ter­ri­bly pas­sive in ship­ping five unan­swered goals at Ibrox back in Septem­ber.

McInnes will not stand for a re­peat of such timid­ity, as be­came clear when asked about dis­ci­pline in a fix­ture that pro­duced six red cards — and just the 37 cau­tions — in half-adozen meet­ings last sea­son.

‘The fix­ture lends it­self to be­ing dif­fi­cult for a ref­eree to han­dle,’ he said. ‘It’s nor­mally quite feisty — and both teams are quite com­mit­ted, as you’d ex­pect. I want to make sure our fans see ex­actly that. ‘We make no apolo­gies for be­ing fully com­mit­ted. ‘Play­ing within the laws of the game, ob­vi­ously, but mak­ing sure our op­po­nents know we’re there.

‘We have al­ways prided our­selves, in the last six-and-a-half years, in be­ing close to Rangers and Celtic. We’ve taken a cou­ple of sore ones against Celtic in par­tic­u­lar over that time but we have al­ways man­aged to beat teams of that qual­ity. ‘I just feel that in those games (this sea­son), we didn’t give our­selves the chance to do that. It’s im­por­tant we have the mind­set that we feel we are go­ing to win the game.

‘That’s what I’ve felt in the past be­fore these games from my play­ers. I need to feel that in the dress­ing room and in the tun­nel — that we can make it a very im­por­tant night for us.

‘What you’re see­ing at the minute are two teams, in Rangers and Celtic, where the qual­ity of the one is driv­ing the qual­ity of the other. De­spite their Euro­pean ex­ploits, they’ve both got squads built to deal with the games.

‘There is a real fo­cus on each and ev­ery game be­cause they know, to be hon­est, that any slip could be fa­tal in their quest to win the league.’

Plenty have tried to play on the pres­sure bear­ing down on both Rangers and Celtic dur­ing the early stages of an al­ready-tight ti­tle bat­tle.

A few have made Ger­rard’s men strug­gle and sweat on oc­ca­sion, too. And then, more of­ten than not, More­los has popped up to keep the mo­men­tum go­ing.

If Aberdeen stop him, they have a chance. Sounds easy, when you say it quickly.

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