Date: 17th February 2007 at 8:25am
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Jimmy Calderwood would like a bit more praise for his team as they hang in the Euro race despite not having the resources of Rangers or Hearts. Jimmy feels his team has defied the odds to still be challenging and he still thinks that most people believe the Dons will lose out but having come this far and to get so close, Jimmy thinks Aberdeen can clinch second place and the Champions League place.

I pointed out that if we were still in there at this stage of the season we would have given ourselves a great chance of getting into Europe.

That is the situation. We are now just 12 games from the finishing line and we have only lost seven league games so far.

Let’s face it, everyone expects us to blow up on the run-in because we have to face Celtic, Rangers and Hearts twice.

We also have to play Hibs and not many people outside Pittodrie think we’ll win too many of those games.

But we know we’ve become a hard team to beat and the players haven’t received the credit they deserve.

It’s up to us to go out there and prove them wrong. I don’t doubt for a minute that on our day we can beat anyone in this league.

Let’s get that fear factor out of the way by beating the top team in the country because to get where we want to be we must win the majority of the remaining games.

Our home record against Celtic is poor but there would be no better time to change that because I don’t like those sort of statistics.

The people at Hearts, Hibs or Rangers will be looking to start their matches this weekend thinking we will have lost again to the champions.

Rangers supporters might actually want Celtic to win to help their own team however far-fetched that might seem.’

The last time the clubs met in Glasgow, many felt Aberdeen should have gone for Celtic`s throat and tested their unassured back line with by showing far less caution. Jimmy defends his decision to defend deep and counter attack and insists that style was forced upon him that day.

Calderwood said: ‘We had a lot of injuries to key players. It was unlike us but we chose to be a bit more careful than usual in that game. It was a case of not having the quality to open up and really go for it from the start because we were short on pace in certain areas.

The decision was to keep it tight and try to catch them because of necessity but we got dogs’ abuse simply for losing by a single goal to the champions.

Defensively we are a strong unit but I think everyone knows our normal positive style of playing the game and I was disappointed by the level of criticism we got.

Regardless of the team Celtic put out, we will be able to have more of a go this time with the players that are available.

It is a strange situation to be in because Gordon Strachan has a strong enough squad to be able not to play anyone who will start against AC Milan on Tuesday.

Steven Pressley and Paul Hartley are certainties to play against us because they are ineligible for Europe.

In such a situation, I would rest all my key men. That might be wishful thinking but they have so many good players that there will be lots of internationals in the side whoever he picks.

Calderwood highly rates his Dutch defender Karim Touzani and if he plays today, he will be renewing an old rivalry going back to his days in the Eredivisie. Karim is desperate for the chance to again face up against Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and delay the Hoops’ march to the title.

The Dons defender faced the hitman when he played with FC Twente and Vennegoor of Hesselink was in the front line for PSV Eindhoven.

Touzani said: ‘I knew Jan as a player in Holland and he is a very good striker. You can give him the ball and he will keep possession. He is a very dangerous player.

I am not surprised to see him doing so well in Scotland because he has quality. He is strong and powerful which suits the game here.

But I am confident in myself. I am not going to say I will stop him because he is confident too. If he shows it on the pitch then I will show mine.

The standard in Scotland is good and Celtic have proved they are the best by being so consistent.

There’s a lot of quality throughout their team and they are not top of the league because of luck.

Defensively we are very strong, don’t concede many goals and have a lot of pace in attack. We play as a team.

We can beat Celtic. The previous games have been very close and we have been unlucky not to win. I am sure this will be another close one.

Maybe things will go for us this time. Celtic have had a good record against us but everything has to change eventually.

The next game is the only one that matters. If you forget what is important then you slip up.

It’s very easy to lose silly points by looking too far ahead. If we remain focused we can be there in second or third place.’

Calderwood named his strongest squad in the absence of Jamie Smith, Craig Brewster, Zander Diamond and Richie Byrne for the clash and will perhaps be surprised to see that Celtic have done the same ahead of their AC Milan showdown.

Aberdeen squad: Langfield, Anderson, Considine, Lovell, Foster, Nicholson, Maguire, Severin, Clark, Miller, Mackie, Hart, Dempsey, Touzani, Soutar, D Smith, Winter, Daal, Donald.

Celtic squad: Boruc, Wilson, Pressley, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura, Lennon, Hartley, McGeady, Beattie, Miller, Gravesen, Vennegoor of Hesselink, Brown, O’Dea, Sno, Jarosik, Telfer.

Celts manager Gordon Strachan is no fan of the 12.30pm kick offs as he feels tradition, atmosphere and actual entertainment all suffer as nobody is really in the right frame of mind for football at that time of day.

Strachan gave his strong opinion on the matter when he said’If it was up to me I would scrap them,’ he said. ‘We should all just forget about the first half and turn up for the second half.

I hope I’m wrong but in these games nothing ever happens in the first half.

Every club I’ve been with it has been the same. There is something missing at that time of the day.’

His striker Craig Beattie is also less than enthralled by playing at that time of day and said, ‘Football is traditionally three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and obviously television has altered that over the years,’ said the 23-year-old forward.

A noon kick-off means you are up at the back of eight, and having your pre-match meal of chicken and pasta first thing in the morning.

It’s not ideal in terms of preparation but you just get on with it.’