IN a mismatched contest, the underdog needs to cling on to anything that can engender confidence. For Aberdeen, it is memories of beating Celtic on the final day of last season that are fuelling their preparations ahead of this afternoon’s League Cup final at Hampden against the same opposition.

The tale of the tape suggests Aberdeen need all the help they can get. Celtic have not lost a domestic cup tie since April 2016 when Ronny Deila’s side were beaten on penalties by Rangers in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup. Victory today would deliver a seventh trophy in succession, their recent return to form making them short-odds favourites to do so.

Aberdeen, in contrast, enter the game on the back of a 3-0 loss to Motherwell last weekend, and burdened by the knowledge that, when they reached both finals in 2016/17, they lost both to Celtic. It is hardly the sort of record that will have their fans heading to Hampden with a spring in their step.

There is one chink of light amid the gloom, however, and Graeme Shinnie believes it is a significant one. Aberdeen travelled to Celtic Park in May needing a victory to ensure they would finish second in the league for a fourth year on the spin and duly did so.

Granted, Celtic had long been since crowned champions and weren’t at full capacity, but Shinnie believes it is a sign that another victory in Glasgow might not be beyond them.

“Beating them down there on the last day last season was important in proving we have that belief, as we were determined to win,” said the Aberdeen captain. If we had failed to get the victory it would have given Rangers the upper hand in terms of finishing second, while a win meant we had definitely done it. We proved ourselves that day and that's what we need to do today as we treated that game as though it was a final.

“It was a case of win and finish second which was a massive achievement for us with Rangers desperate to take over that spot.

“I feel that there is a belief in the squad that we can go and do it today but that is easier said than done. We need to make sure that when we step over that white line that we do mean business and we do perform.”

Shinnie and Scott Brown could resume their ongoing feud that began in that match in May when the Aberdeen captain was booked for a late tackle on his Celtic counterpart. Brown later responded by saying it had been a “little boy’s tackle” and said Shinnie “didn’t have great quality”.

The pair then came together this season when Brown snatched away a note that had been passed to Shinnie by manager Derek McInnes. Should Brown start this afternoon it could well add extra spice to the final.

“I've seen Scott on a couple of occasions and he probably hates me,” added Shinnie. “But he's more respectful than you think. On the pitch he is a battler like I am and he goes all out to win for his team which is something I respect and love.

"I'm like that myself when I get over the white line and on to the pitch as I am just desperate to win the game. It's about being competitive and if he plays we will be up against each other as we are two battlers. There will be some points in the game when we come together.That's what happens and we will deal with it like men.”

Shinnie was the Inverness Caledonian Thistle captain when they won the Scottish Cup in 2015 but the prospect of lifting a trophy for his hometown team holds huge appeal.

“Those are some of the best days that you can have in football as winning brings so many different things. It’s something I’ve been desperate for as soon as I came here. When you’re made captain you want to lift silverware and be remembered at a club for doing that. Doing it at Inverness was one of the best feelings in my career. That gave me hunger to try to do more.

“We’ve had chances here – semi-finals and finals that I’ve enjoyed – but I want to go one step further and get my hands on a trophy.”

A team-mate in that Inverness team was Ryan Christie who, following a loan spell at Aberdeen, has flourished this season at Celtic.

“It’s no surprise to see Ryan do so well at Celtic. He came on loan here, developed, and learned a lot. Going back to Celtic and being amongst it – all he really looked for was that chance. Maybe with Brown being injured a pathway opened up for him and he’s grabbed it with both hands.”