Date: 2nd March 2007 at 11:58am
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Jimmy Calderwood is preparing for war in the bid for the Champions League place as D-Day approaches. He`s dug his trench and has readied his troops to come out fighting. His walking wounded are back after a quiet few weeks and reckons the opposition have harder battles ahead of them which could see the Dons steal back some of the seven points difference. It is all building up to a winner takes all showdown at Ibrox on the 17th of March.

The Glaswegian tactician plotted the downfall of the team from the city of his birth and said, ‘Rangers have Hibs and Celtic away in their next two games so things could change very quickly.

‘If we win our games and Rangers get nothing, it will be very interesting as far as the race for the Champions League slot is concerned.

‘Rangers have been playing with confidence so I understand why people are saying we should be looking at third place to return to Europe. But we haven’t come this far chasing that second spot to give up the ghost.

‘Walter Smith and Ally McCoist have given everyone at Ibrox a big lift and they are winning games again.

‘But Walter knows his side isn’t actually playing like world-beaters so we believe they can still be caught.

Whilst Rangers take on the might of inform Hibs and Celtic, Aberdeen are pitted up against Falkirk and Motherwell. Matches which Jimmy Calderwood will be demanding six points from, albeit both games are on the road.

Six points from those matches and Rangers dropping a few points will put a whole new complexion on the run-in race, forcing journalists like Darryl Broadfoot to revoke their “Aberdeen`s` chances are remote” comments which he so unwittingly made after the Celtic defeat, without checking the upcoming fixture list first.

Jimmy knows that this is make or break time but he knows it`s still all well within Aberdeen`s grasp, ‘We have four away games and one at home in the next month and to do well is a tall ask. We can’t really afford a slip-up and certainly can’t afford many.

‘However, we are playing before our main rivals do this weekend and have the chance to put a marker down.

‘If you had said to me at the start of the season we would be in this situation now, I’d have taken it. Of course, I would rather be in Rangers’ position but we are not playing badly.

‘It has been like that all season, having one massive game after another.

But that’s what you get at a club such as this in our current position. Real pressure comes at the bottom of the table where livelihoods are at stake. Our games are great ones.

‘They are all about ambition and hunger to get where we want to be.

All we can do is win as many games as possible and keep our rivals under pressure.’

Whilst all the talk is of pursuing Rangers, a quick look over the shoulder sees the Hearts circus trying to claw back the Dons and are, amazingly considering their traumas, level on points with Aberdeen and with their own Euro ambitions. But Jimmy does not see them lasting the pace, the loss of Paul Hartley and Steven Pressley being too great.

He said: ‘Hearts still have a large squad to choose from but will miss these two big-style because they formed the main part of the backbone of their team.

‘But it’s a totally different Hearts team than the one that started the season. They have so many foreigners now, I’m wondering if our lads should get caps when we play them.

‘I’m not convinced it’s a positive to have so many foreign guys in a Scottish team and seems to have caused some of the unrest there.

‘If we stay focused we can take advantage of that. We are in a strong position and should be confident heading down the stretch.’

Jimmy is pleased with his new headache of having to pick his best team now that all of his squad, besides Richie Byrne, is available for selection and he now has the chance to employ the tactics that the players were brought to give the options of using.

Jimmy said of his new dilemma, ‘It is hard picking the team, but after having to put lots of youngsters on the bench a few weeks ago, choosing the substitutes is a nightmare.

‘But it is great at the same time and this must be the strongest squad I have had available to me this season. I can’t remember our bench ever being as good as this.

‘Every one of my substitutes this weekend would be in virtually every other SPL first team outside Rangers and Celtic, which tells you something.

‘Watching the returning players in training has been great and everybody has taken a lift from that.

‘Everyone wants to play with good players and having more people available makes everyone a bit sharper, as there are more of them champing at the bit to get a game.

‘In the last few weeks, I have been thinking that one more injury could really cost us, so getting three or four people back at the one time is a great help.

‘If we can get everybody fit at this point of the season, it gives us a great chance. Everyone wants to play and get the glory and they are fresh and fit, so that can only help the whole team.’