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Saturday 20th April 2024:  kick-off 12.30pm

Scottish Cup Semi-Final - Aberdeen v Celtic

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P&J: Calderwood asks the Dons to beat Hearts with minds

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Aberdeen manager Jimmy Calderwood has told his players to use brains rather than brawn when they put their Europa League aspirations on the line against Hearts at Pittodrie tonight.


The Dons’ hopes of qualifying for Europe through their fair play ranking have disappeared with three red cards in the last six games. But Calderwood expects qualification through the traditional method to be still on the agenda following tonight’s game.


Mark Kerr has been sent off twice – at Hibs for violent conduct and then at Dundee United on Thursday for foul and abusive language – and Andy Considine was ordered off at Motherwell for persistent fouling.


Five points separate third-placed Hearts from fifth-placed Aberdeen with three games remaining and the Dons manager knows his team must close the gap tonight.


He said: “We are missing Mark Kerr against Hearts again due to suspension, which is a massive loss for us. He has been a key player for us this season and it suspensions at this stage of the season which can make all the difference to your chances of success.


“I want my players to concentrate on football rather than the physical side. We are not a team which gets caught up in silly things on the pitch, but it has happened recently and it has to stop.


“At this moment I’d rather be in Hearts and Dundee United’s positions, but if we are lucky enough to win the game and Celtic beat United then it’s game on.


“We know how hard it is going to be and a draw would probably suit Hearts more than it would suit us. We will do our best to win the game and if results elsewhere go our way we’re only two points behind Hearts and one behind United and suddenly it’s a lot closer. It’s going to be very difficult to get third spot, but if it’s down to that then suddenly it becomes a much bigger reality.â€


The Dons and the Jambos have been regular competitors in the past five seasons and, while admitting matches between the two are fiercely competitive, Calderwood does not believe there is malice between the clubs.


He said: “The two teams have always been so close in the time I’ve been here. Mostly, the sides have been in the top six vying for third spot other than when they had a wonderful season and split the Old Firm. It should be an exciting night.â€


Tommy Wright, who suffered a hamstring strain in training on Sunday, joins Andy Considine, Derek Young, Darren Mackie and Zander Diamond on the injured list. Kerr serves a one-match suspension following his red card at Dundee United on Thursday.


Calderwood’s options are restricted, but he is counting on Sone Aluko’s pace and trickery to swing the match.


He said: “Sone is a good player and he’s brave. When he’s on song he’s a nightmare to play against.


“It’s a plus for the manager because he can play in several positions – as he showed at Ibrox at the beginning of the season.â€

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