Everything Burnley fans need to know about Europa League opponents Aberdeen

Derek McInnes has had an incredible influence on Aberdeen.
Derek McInnes has had an incredible influence on Aberdeen.
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Burnley’s first foray into European football since 1967 sees them face Ladbrokes Premiership runners-up Aberdeen.

It wasn’t the tie Clarets fans were hoping for, perhaps something a bit more exotic. Victory over two legs will see the team head to Turkey to face İstanbul Başakşehir.

Aberdeen's home ground Pittodrie

Aberdeen's home ground Pittodrie

But first they have to get past Aberdeen.

Who are Aberdeen?

For the past four years the Dons have been Scotland’s second force, finishing second to Celtic on all four occasions, the 2016/2017 season saw Derek McInnes’ side finish runners-up in every domestic competition.

Looking more broadly Aberdeen could make claims to be the third biggest club in the country, albeit Heart of Midlothian from Scotland’s capital would have something to say about that.

The club have never been relegated from the top-flight despite some scares in the 2000s, including finishing bottom of what was then the SPL. However, stadium criteria kept them in the division.

More recently the club have gone through a resurgence under former West Brom midfielder McInnes.

Home ground

Burnley fans will be making the trip to Pittodrie. The stadium near the city’s beach holds more than 20,000. It is walkable from the city centre with a number of pubs on the way.

The club are in the process of building an impressive new ground on the edge of the city with Pittodrie outdated and difficult to reconstruct.

As an aside, supporters will have to be appear of the city’s intimidating seagulls. They are common visitors to Pittodrie.

How did they qualify for Europe?

Aberdeen’s consistency last season ensured that from early in the campaign they looked certain qualifiers for Europe. However, it was a 1-0 victory over Celtic on the last day of the season in Glasgow, their first league win at Celtic Park since 2004, which ensured they finished runners-up.

The second-place meant they qualified for the second qualifying round rather than starting in the first.

Yet, in Burnley, they were handed one of the most difficult unseeded teams.

What is their European record like?

Outside of Celtic and Rangers, Aberdeen have a European record which is the envy of all other sides in Scotland and many in England.

In the last four years they have managed to progress to the third qualifying round of the Europa League but no further, while they remain the last Scottish team outside of the Old Firm to play in European competition after Christmas.

It came in the 2007/2008 Uefa Cup when the team came through a group consisting of Atletico Madrid, Copenhagen, Lokomotiv Moscow and Panathinaikos before being knocked out by Bayern Munich in the third round. But they did hold the German giants to a draw at Pittodrie.

And, of course, it is impossible to talk about Aberdeen and not mention their 1983 Cup Winners’ Cup success. This time they defeated Bayern on the way to beating Real Madrid in the final.

They followed it up by beating Hamburg in the Super Cup.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson they were regular competitors in European competition, playing in the European Cup three times, reaching the quarter-final in 1986.

Players to watch

Burnley will encounter a commanding last line of defence in Joe Lewis. The English goalkeeper, who was once called up for the international team while at Peterborough United, has been one of the best No.1s in Scottish football in recent years.

Lewis is in the mould of Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois. His tall frame sees him make spectacular stops smaller keepers are unable to produce. He is also a formidable presence in terms of crosses.

Aberdeen’s talisman is Graeme Shinnie. The Scottish international is a driving force when played in midfield, and still one of the best players in the team if fielded at left-back.

At times he is a walking yellow card due to the tenacity of his play. But he covers so much ground and does all he can to get forward and support the attack.

The Dons have a lot of talent in attack but they can be inconsistent. Gary Mackay-Steven is the epitome of that. The winger is quick and lithe, incredibly skilful and capable of producing jaw-dropping moments.

But he is equally capable of drifting through games anonymously. If he is in the mood he will worry Burnley’s full-backs.

Man in charge

Derek McInnes has been transformative for Aberdeen. The club were meandering before he was appointed. Many fans had given up on the team, while those that were still turning up week-in-week-out flitted between anger and indifference.

McInnes had struggled at Bristol City following a fine job at St Johnstone. He took over Aberdeen in 2013 for the final five games of the season as the team finished eighth.

He wanted to make the fans proud of the team again and in his first full season led them to third-place, a Scottish Cup semi-final but most importantly of all League Cup success, their first trophy since 1995.

Since then he has overseen a change in fortunes for Aberdeen with high demands and standards. They’ve finished second in the last four seasons.

What can Burnley expect?

Sean Dyche may see similarities to his Burnley side in McInnes’ Aberdeen. They don’t make it easy for opposition with their organisation and structure.

McInnes keenly analyses opposition. So much so that it can sometimes muddle his thinking as he switches around personnel and systems.

The team, however, are flexible and it is not easy to pinpoint exactly how they will line-up. But they will likely set up in a 4-2-3-1 with the physical presence of Sam Cosgrove leading the line, owing to their direct approach.

Burnley shouldn’t expect Aberdeen to commit too many players forward, leaving spaces in behind, and they won’t look to dominate possession either.

What they should expect to be bombarded with crosses with the wide areas a key attacking outlet for the side and long passes. Only Motherwell played more in the Ladbrokes Premiership last season.

Anything else?

Don’t read too much in to Aberdeen losing striker Adam Rooney to Salford City and the fallout which followed. While he finished as the club’s leading scorer in the league in the last four seasons is ability and influence had waned greatly.

His eight goals last season was his lowest return as he became a bit-part player unable to contribute as he used to.

The greater concern for the club has been the lack of incoming players in key positions. The team still look light in attack, in the wide areas and at full-back.