ABERDEEN will, having been pipped to both the League Cup and Scottish Cup by Celtic two seasons ago, be bidding to avoid a hat-trick of final defeats to their expensively-assembled Glasgow rivals when they take to the field at Hampden this afternoon.

Few observers give Derek McInnes’ side much hope of overcoming Brendan Rodgers’ team in the climax of the Betfred-sponsored competition given the considerable gulf between them in spending power and quality.

Yet, the Pittodrie club can perhaps take heart from the last occasion they found themselves in such a situation.

Aberdeen were, having lost classic League Cup finals to Rangers in 1987 and 1988, not fancied to prevail when they met the great Ibrox side of that era in the denouement of the tournament for the third consecutive season in 1989. With very good reason.

Graeme Souness, after all, was able to field, among others, Chris Woods, Gary Stevens, Richard Gough, Terry Butcher, Trevor Steven, Ray Wilkins, Mark Walters, Ally McCoist and Mo Johnston in his starting line-up that day.

But the team co-managed by Alex Smith and Jocky Scott were no slouches themselves. Theo Snelders, Stewart McKimmie, Alex McLeish, Willie Miller, David Robertson, Eoin Jess, Jim Bett, Charlie Nicholas and Paul Mason ran out narrow but deserved 2-1 winners in front of a crowd of 61,190 after another epic encounter between the fierce rivals had gone to extra time.

Aberdeen have lifted the League Cup twice since then; against Dundee in 1995 and Inverness Caledonian Thistle in 2014. It is now 29 years, though, since they overcame one of the Old Firm clubs to triumph. Can they do so again today?

Bett, the cultured Scottish midfielder who was named man of the match in the 1989 final after an outstanding personal performance against his former employers, certainly sees parallels between the challenge he and his team-mates faced and the one the current side have in front of them.

He knows that beating the double treble winners will not be easy. He appreciates that Celtic are overriding favourites. But he feels the Aberdeen victory he was a part of shows what can be achieved. He will tune in from his home in Iceland hopeful of witnessing an upset.

“We had lost the previous two finals to Rangers in the Skol Cup, as it was at that time, and we were under a lot of pressure that year,” he said. “The finals were great adverts for the Scottish game. They could have gone either way. But we were under pressure. As players, we didn’t want to lose a third. We handled it really well and played superbly.

“Graeme had taken over at Rangers and really turned them around. He brought in some exceptional players, some big names from England. They must’ve had some wage bill. It was an incredibly strong team for a Scottish club to have. They were all excellent players. But Wilkins stood out for me. If you gave him time on the ball he could really hurt you because he was an excellent passer. He could win the game on his own if he was on form.

“You were always up against it when you went to Glasgow for a cup final against Celtic or Rangers. But we had so much experience. And we were desperate not to lose. It is a long drive home after you get beaten.”

Paul Mason, the English striker who Smith had signed from Dutch club Groningen for £400,000 the year before, put Aberdeen in front in the first half when he headed a Robert Connor cross over the head of Woods.

The defending champions equalised before half time in controversial circumstances. Referee George Smith awarded a penalty when McCoist went to ground following a challenge by Miller. The Aberdeen players were incensed. But Walters stroked the spot kick beyond Snelders.

Justice was perhaps done in extra time. Willem van der Ark, who had come on for Brian Grant, nodded a Robertson throw-in down to Nicholas who laid it back to his strike partner Mason who bagged his second.

“I remember all three of the finals were quite even,” said Bett. “Both teams had players who could turn a game. When we went into extra time Alex knew that we had to change things. He brought on Willem and the big man got the touch that set up Paul for the winning goal.

“Everybody knew about Charlie, but Paul was an excellent striker as well. Alex bought him from Holland. I don’t know how we got him. But Alex had excellent contacts in Holland and managed to get Snelders, [Hans] Gillhaus, van der Ark, [Theo] ten Caat and Mason. He managed to blend them in to the side. But the Dutch have a similar mentality to the Scots. They want to win as well and have good stamina.

“Jocky was a great coach and Alex was a good man manager. They complemented each other well. They put together a team that was great to watch and could take on anybody in the Scottish game. We beat Rangers in the League Cup final and Celtic in the Scottish Cup final that season.”

The loss of players like Ryan Christie, Jonny Hayes, Ryan Jack, Kenny McLean, Adam Rooney has been keenly felt by Aberdeen this season. McInnes’ men, runners-up in the Ladbrokes Premiership in the last four seasons, are currently sixth in the top-flight table. A 3-0 defeat to Motherwell away in the league last weekend was hardly morale boosting.

Bett, though, feels the 1-0 win his old club recorded over Rangers in the semi-final last month will give them belief. He would like to see them go on the offensive from kick-off.

“Aberdeen need everyone to play well on the day,” he said. “They can’t have one or two off. It is such a strong Celtic team. But they have got to the final on merit and will have taken a great amount of confidence from beating Rangers in the semi. They will believe they can do.

“It is imperative they get off to a good start. They can’t let Celtic dominate the game. They are on such a high at the moment. But I would like to see them having a go. I don’t want to see them sitting back and trying to hit them on the breakaway.”

It worked well for Bett and his Aberdeen team-mates in 1989.