Dundee United and Aberdeen meet in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup on Sunday in a fixture that brings to mind a series of classic cup clashes between the “New Firm” sides over the years.
However, the 2018 instalment comes at a time when the sides’ fortunes have rarely differed more greatly.
Aberdeen are riding high in the Premiership and are firmly established as Celtic’s main challengers in the domestic game.
For United, it’s an altogether different story. Since being beaten by St Johnstone in the 2014 Scottish Cup final they have been on a shocking decline that sees them spending a second season in the Championship and facing the threat that it might turn into a third.
So how is the prospect of a cup visit by United being seen in Aberdeen? We asked Press & Journal sports reporter Paul Third for his assessment.
A replay would be huge for United — but it’s not going to happen
The meeting of the second best team in Scotland against the second best team in the Championship.
There should only be one winner.
But cup football, and New Firm derby cup ties in particular, have had a knack of throwing up surprises in the last couple of decades but it would be a huge shock if Dundee United knock Aberdeen out of the Scottish Cup at Pittodrie on Sunday.
Clearly United boss Csaba Laszlo doesn’t see it quite that way with his comments in the Courier earlier this week suggesting the Dons are only doing so well because they’ve had it easy in the last four years.
I can guarantee that remark will be used by his opposite number at Pittodrie in Sunday’s pre-match teamtalk by Derek McInnes.
United have had an inconsistent campaign in the second tier but for the Dons it has been another solid season in the Premiership.
The Betfred Cup quarter-final defeat at Motherwell stung Aberdeen though and that has fuelled their motivation to make amends in the Scottish Cup.
Having reached the final last year there is a desire to get back to Hampden and go one better for the men in red.
At United, promotion is the big prize they crave but there is no doubting they have players who can hurt the Dons if there is any complacency.
Scott McDonald has been a thorn in Aberdeen’s side for years and even though he turns 35 this year he remains a threat.
The problem at United is consistency. I watched the Tangerines in Ray McKinnon’s last game in charge in October when Caley Thistle ran out 2-0 winners at Tannadice.
It’s no exaggeration to say it could have been five that day.
The 6-1 defeat at Falkirk reinforces when United have an off day they really struggle and they can ill-afford that on Sunday.
United’s gameplan will be more focused on stopping the key men in the home side.
Opposing managers know what they are getting when they face the Dons and the return of Niall McGinn has only added to the attacking threat at Pittodrie.
Gary Mackay-Steven is well known to the United support and will no doubt love to put on a show against his former club but McGinn’s return has been a galvanising one for the Dons and he has been involved in eight of the 10 goals Aberdeen have scored in the last three matches.
It doesn’t take a genius to know Adam Rooney thrives on service and if he gets it he will hurt United.
Stopping him from getting it is the task facing the visitors.
Publicly, Aberdeen fans will tell you they don’t care a jot that United are out of the Premiership but there is little doubt the top flight has been poorer for not having the fixture in recent years.
Certainly, the 4,500 who regularly packed the away end at Tannadice whenever the Dons visited would surely agree.
So anything is possible in this game but I just can’t see a United victory this weekend.
A replay? Maybe, but an awful lot has to go right for the visitors at the same time a whole lot is going wrong for the home team.