ABERDEEN legend Alex McLeish has warned against writing off his old team before today’s Betfred League Cup Final at Hampden.
The former Scotland international boss insisted it would be dangerous to dismiss the Pittodrie outfit’s chances against Celtic.
The Dons go into the game 10 points behind the Hoops and have already lost twice to them in the Premiership in this campaign.
McLeish, who has also managed Rangers, Hibs, Motherwell, Birmingham City and Aston Villa, said: “I expect Celtic to win.”
“They really are in a different level this season under Brendan Rodgers than they were last season.
“There’s a bit to do with personnel, of course, when you bring in someone like Moussa Dembele, who I saw quite a lot last year at Fulham and he forged a great partnership with Ross McCormack,
“I knew that that kid would come to Scotland and do really well because he’s a quality player.
“The Dons have got great momentum in team selection over the last couple of years, and I really hope that those guys rise to play as they’ve never played before.
“They really need to play at their extreme best level, even above if that’s possible, and I say that because of my affection for Aberdeen, spending 18 years up there.
“So, Celtic fans don’t berate me for saying this, but I’d like the Dons to win!
“I think it could happen. I do see them being much closer than the points difference would indicate and I believe that the Aberdeen players will raise their game.
“Derek McInnes has to make sure they control their emotions and keep everybody on the pitch and also that they give everything and leave nothing in the dressing room.”
McLeish spent almost the whole of his playing career at Aberdeen, lining out for them between 1978 and 1994 when he won two Scottish League Cups in 1986 and 1990, along with three league titles.
He also won the English Football League Cup in 2011 as Birmingham City boss, a match he says the Blues went into as similar underdogs.
He added: “It can happen. I did it at Birmingham against Arsenal, nobody gave us a prayer, but we believed in the dressing room and I think it’s very important the players go out and relax.
“Remember the experience that they have already in this Aberdeen team with two or three years playing with the same team week-in, week-out.
“There have been a couple of different players in different positions, but by-and-large they’ve had a really good nucleus of players playing at a consistently high level.
“When you’re favourites, the pressure is on you and there are examples such as Manchester City losing the FA Cup final to Wigan a couple of years ago.”