At this stage of the season, the two old rivals have much in common. Played six, drawn three, won two, thumped at Parkhead, and a general consensus amongst supporters that they should be performing better.
However, this is where the similarities end. Both teams have very different styles, and the problems they have faced have been totally different.
Aberdeen, for instance, average on “danger zone” shot for every 15 minutes of possession. The danger zone is the central channel of the penalty box, and it is by far and away the likely place for a shot to turn into a goal on a football pitch. Now, Aberdeen have averaged around 47 minutes of possession per game. That means, should they achieve their average possession, they will be able to create around three good chances to score a goal.
However, they are playing Rangers: the team with the second highest possession in the league (57%). If Rangers achieve their average possession, that gives Aberdeen less than forty minutes of possession. Furthermore, Rangers average a dangerous chance every 8 minutes of possession; nearly twice as quickly as Aberdeen.
To put this in simple language: Aberdeen need a lot of time on the ball to generate good goal scoring chances. If Rangers can starve Aberdeen of possession, then Aberdeen are unlikely to do much.
How Aberdeen can beat Rangers
With the exception of games against Hearts and Celtic, every team to have faced Aberdeen this season has done two things: given Aberdeen the ball and sat with a deep defensive line. So far, Aberdeen have really struggled against this set up. This video sums it up nicely:
The worst attacking side in the league: Aberdeen. Don't gamble going forward and lack movement+imagination. pic.twitter.com/Qw3nyjisIY— Dougie Wright (@dougie_analysis) September 15, 2016
However, in Rangers, they will be facing a team who are notorious for pushing players up the park. There will be a lot of space in behind Rangers’ centre halves. A counter attack with direct running is not something neither Rob Kiernan, Clint Hill nor Phillipe Senderos will particularly fancy. Niall McGinn and Wes Burns are no slouches; you can guarantee they’ll be sitting in behind Tavernier and Wallace waiting to break.
Now Rangers main problem this season has been taking their chances, scoring just 7 goals from 88 shots. Should this frustration continue for one more game, then Aberdeen will fancy their chances at nicking a goal on the break (see video below) and frustrating Rangers.
Rangers defensive weakness: lack of aggression and concentration between central midfielders. pic.twitter.com/lMWCYOnXpn— Dougie Wright (@dougie_analysis) September 9, 2016
Furthermore, Aberdeen love playing at Pittodrie. Since the start of last season, they have made the stadium something of a fortress, losing just twice in the league at home, both games after they had secured second place in the league. Meanwhile, Rangers love playing at Ibrox. The problem is that they’re not playing there this weekend, and have won just two of their last eleven league matches outside of Govan. This is a run that stretches back to February of this year, and will be of real concern to the Rangers management going into Sunday’s fixture.
It’s now been over a month without a win in the league for Warburton, and what a rough month it’s been for the Ibroxclub. From the game at Parkhead to the off field controversy with Joey Barton, it is a month in which Warburton has been doubted like never before. A victory on Sunday would be the perfect tonic to revitalise his team.
Aberdeen are going to do everything in their power to prevent that from happening.