Inverness CT V Aberdeen at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium : Match Preview

17 April 2014 05:31
Inverness CT V Aberdeen - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Shoot for Europe, urges Hughes

Inverness manager John Hughes has challenged his players to end a memorable season with one last surge for Europe.

Caley Thistle were pipped to a Europa League spot by St Johnstone on the final day last season and their prospects look bleaker this time around.

They need to haul back Motherwell, who sit eight points above them, and possibly finish above William Hill Scottish Cup finalists Dundee United.

But they have the chance to liven up the race when they host second-placed Aberdeen on Friday night.

Hughes, whose side are two Scottish Premiership points short of last season's total, said: "We have already amassed the points total that we got last year. It's been a right good season and let's go and finish it on a high.

"To get to a cup final and the top six for the second year running sets us up for the remainder of the season and hopefully we can go and clinch that European spot."

Caley Thistle will need to improve their home form if they are to give themselves a chance.

Inverness have only won one of their last 10 home matches in the Premiership, a run that started with a 4-3 defeat by Aberdeen, when they were four goals down at half-time.

Hughes has been working on providing more support to lone striker Billy McKay and banishing their vulnerability to the counter-attack, and he feels his players are responding.

"We want to give our home supporters that winning feeling every Saturday but some of the performances, even in defeat, have been good," said Hughes, whose team won in Dingwall on their last outing.

"We have been working a lot more on defending as a team and not leaving ourselves open to counter-attacks.

"We have left ourselves too open in the past and what we are working on is having players sitting behind the ball so that if players up the park go and express themselves and it breaks down, we are not leaving ourselves wide open.

"I think that was evident against Ross County so all credit to the players for taking it on board."

Aberdeen are looking to bounce back from their William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to St Johnstone while Caley Thistle are looking to avenge their League Cup final loss.

"Being on the losing side in the League Cup final, the mental effects it has, it's a real job picking the boys up and getting going again," Hughes added.

"So I feel for Aberdeen, they will be very disappointed.

"But beware the wounded animal. They will want to go and get that European spot, as we do.

"So it will be 'game on' on Friday."

Ryan Jack is suspended for Aberdeen.

Winger Jonny Hayes has returned to training following a collarbone injury but he is unlikely to make the game against his former club.

Derek McInnes otherwise has a full squad with Alan Tate and Calvin Zola both fit.

"Obviously Sunday was a major disappointment," McInnes said."We weren't feeling great there for a few days, but we're glad there is another game coming quickly and we've got to pick ourselves up and go again.

"We've got to have complete focus on the league campaign. We've got to come out fighting and have a go.

"We're at the stage of the season now where there are no real surprises.

"Going away from home at this stage in the season is always tough and I think every game with Inverness has been fiercely fought and each game has been tight so I expect something similar.

"If we keep working hard and if we play the way we can I think we can win the game."

Source: PA