Aberdeen V Hearts at Pittodrie Stadium : Match Preview

18 March 2017
Aberdeen V Hearts - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes only has eyes for Hearts

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes insists beating Hearts is his side's main motivation this weekend - not delaying Celtic's championship party.

The Jambos could all but gift-wrap the Ladbrokes Premiership title for Brendan Rodgers' rampant Hoops if they beat the Dons at Pittodrie on Saturday.

That would allow the runaway leaders to wrap up their sixth consecutive Scottish crown when they face Dundee at Dens Park on Sunday.

But McInnes says he has not even considered the ramifications of a loss this weekend.

Instead the Reds boss - whose side sit second and are looking to claim a club-record ninth-straight win at home - wants his men to press home their advantage over the fourth-placed Jambos.

Asked about Celtic's title hopes this weekend, he said: "I hadn't even thought about that to be honest. What's at the forefront of our mind is trying to deliver a strong team performance. The challenge from Hearts will be big enough so we will just concentrate on that.

"If you are going to have a successful campaign, I think you have to be strong at home. An Aberdeen team has to deal with winning games at home and it's about having that mentality. Hopefully we can find a way to win on Saturday.

"I don't think Hearts are coming up here trying to nick a draw. They will be here looking for a win. When you put all that into the mix, it has all the ingredients of a good game.

"If we can go 17 points clear of Hearts by winning, I'd have taken that before the start of the season. Last season they made it clear they were coming for us and this season have tried to challenge us again.

"The challenge has been met head on and we're in a good position at the minute. But we know how quickly that can change so we need to concentrate."

Hearts boss Ian Cathro has hailed Aberdeen as the benchmark every Scottish club bar Celtic is reaching for.

The Dons are aiming to finish second for the third year running having claimed an eight-point lead over Rangers.

It is a battle the Jambos had hoped to join at the start of the season but new boss Cathro admits his team must strive to match the levels of consistency managed by Derek McInnes' men.

Cathro told HeartsTV: "All the clubs in this league with the aspiration of pushing and improving themselves have to look at them as the benchmark.

"The work Aberdeen have done under Derek over the last four years, building a very strong, experienced team with good quality individuals, is impressive.

"They get consistent performances, play very organised football. They know exactly what they are doing and it's brought them success.

"I think everybody underneath Aberdeen in the league will be wanting to do that."

A comfortable 4-0 win over Hamilton last week eased the pressure on Cathro after he had mustered just three wins from his first 15 games in charge.

But he admits his team will not have it as easy as they did against second bottom Accies when they head north this weekend.

He said: "It's been a positive week for us. We take good feelings from the Hamilton game, but not too much. That game doesn't relate too much to the challenge we face.

"It'll be a very different test at Pittodrie. It's one of the toughest games of the season but we have a good understanding of how the game will be, so we're looking to start with plenty of energy and pace."