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McInnes targets Ismail signing

ABERDEEN are on the verge of securing Zeli Ismail, the Wolverhampton Wanderers winger who was once tipped to become football's first £100m player, on a season's loan.

Zeli Ismail, left, enjoyed his season on loan to Burton Albion and is available from Wolves again. Picture: Getty Images
Zeli Ismail, left, enjoyed his season on loan to Burton Albion and is available from Wolves again. Picture: Getty Images

The 20-year-old Albanian-born wide man spent last season at Burton Albion and made a big impact, prompting the Molineux club to encourage Ismail to go out on loan again.

Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, has made little secret of the fact he wants a wide midfielder to add to his squad and he is understood to have made a move to land a player who was the subject of £2.5m offers from both Chelsea and Manchester City when aged 14. The Midlands club turned down those advances.

Aberdeen will hope to have Ismail on board in time for their next match in the Europa League against Groningen, should they complete the job they started a week ago against Dauvaga Riga, in this evening's second leg.

McInnes' side hold a 5-0 lead from the first leg and have vowed to ignore a combination of threats and an over-physical approach from Daugava Riga tonight in Latvia and carry out a professional job to to ease into the next round of the Europa League. They hammered the woeful Baltic side 5-0 at Pittodrie last week to make this evening's tie a formality. But while the outcome of the tie is not in doubt, the prospect of more injuries is a serious concern.

Daugava had eight players booked last week, with two sent off after wild challenges. Their frustrated players were heard to issue threats about what would await the visitors

Scotland squad member Peter Pawlett limped off after a series of heavy challenges and is not in the squad. The last thing the League Cup winners need is injuries to key men, and Jonny Hayes has urged his team-mates not to rise to any bait in Riga.

Asked about those Latvian verbals, Hayes stated: "I think that was more heat of the moment stuff. They were losing goals and their discipline went and I am sure they want to get revenge in the football sense. There were a few late tackles and they had two players sent off. I thought the one on Peter Pawlett was a straight red card anyway as it was off the ball.

"There were a couple of tackles on myself as well, but I am used to that and I thought we protected ourselves quite well. We kept our discipline and showed our maturity as well that we didn't get drawn into any silly tackles. There were no silly reactions, we got the job done and we did it in a very professional manner.

"I have learned over the years to try to ride tackles and avoid collisions where possible. It is just unfortunate that Peter suffered the injury. There were some on Willo Flood and Declan McManus when he came on too.

"But we have forgotten about that now and we will act as if this is the first leg of the tie. We want to win, we want to put in a good performance and build up our fitness as well.

"We need to perform like we did in the last 20 minutes of the last game - we didn't sit back, we were very professional and we didn't think that was enough. We didn't stop even in the last minute when we scored the fifth, so we will want to look after ourselves and try and win the game."

Hayes made his name as a winger for Inverness and enjoyed a good season with Aberdeen last term, but has been increasingly found at left back, where he was played in the first leg. He said: "I have got more accustomed to the role over the course of last season when I was thrown in around Christmas time. I must have played 10 to a dozen games in that position last season,and I am actually quite enjoying it.

"The manager said to me at the start of pre-season there was a good chance I could be playing there. I have not got my head around it yet but I have got more used to it. I have got a lot to improve defensively and it helps when the lads at the back talk me through games. I have got a good understanding with Niall McGinn, who is playing ahead of me.

"You teach yourself to be more defensive helping out your full back and midfield so my role has changed over the last couple of years."

McInnes vowed to resist the temptation of resting his key men tonight and insisted his side would do everything to chalk up another impressive win.

Aberdeen are expected to start with their strongest XI, minus Pawlett, and McInnes said: "It is about being professional, getting in and out and hopefully doing a job. There is work still to be done to get through the tie and we will need to give good individual performances. All it takes is for one or two of our boys to think it is job done which could make it an uncomfortable night."

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