Derek McInnes is confident Aberdeen can inflict Celtic’s first defeat in domestic football under Brendan Rogers at Pittodrie tomorrow but admits he is far too sensible to suggest the Premiership title will end up anywhere other than Parkhead.
The defending champions may be struggling to make an impact in the Champions League but Wednesday’s 4-0 victory at Dingwall makes it 11 wins and a draw from their 12 matches so far against Scottish opposition.
It is a run that included the Dons’ 23rd consecutive league defeat at Celtic Park, but McInnes’s side won both meetings at Pittodrie last season and he is convinced they can repeat that feat to consolidate their own position as closest challengers.
Realistically, finishing credible runners-up for a third successive season is the best their manager believes Aberdeen can achieve, as it would be lacking good sense or judgement to say otherwise.
“I think it is understandable that people believe Celtic will win the league,” said McInnes, pictured. “I do feel that it is up to us and others to do all we can to make sure that isn’t the case though.
“Only a fool would say Celtic aren’t going to win the league the way they have started the season but we all have responsibilities to make sure it is not too comfortable for them either.
“They have little bits of doubt throughout the season and there is no better time than when you play them yourself. You can leave your mark on them and do damage to them by winning the game.
“That is our intention for Saturday. I think that helped us stay with Celtic last season. I don’t think they won the league until three games to go and us beating them twice here was a big part in that.
“You look at leagues all over Europe and normally by Christmas there are one or two dominant teams who are stretching away from everybody else. That is how it is in most countries but for us to try and stay with Celtic it is going to be difficult.
“I have always said Celtic will need to have a poorer season by their standards for others to get close to them. They actually have improved and that makes the challenge more difficult but I don’t think we should just roll over either.
“We have a bit of pride in ourselves and we want to give them something to think about. The only time we can really do that is when we play them and hopefully we can do that on Saturday.”
Celtic paid Aberdeen the compliment of resting eight of the starting line-up that defeated Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi final last Sunday for that win at Dingwall, a calculated gamble that paid off.
They will move ten points clear of the Dons with a game in hand if they get a morale-boosting victory ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Germany to face their Champions League opponents Borussia Monchengladbach.
McInnes is looking for a positive response to their midweek defeat at Hamilton Accies and is hoping to have striker Jayden Stockley fit to boost the chances of that happening but admits Celtic have a huge advantage once again when it comes to variety up front.
He added: “Their attacking threat is definitely stronger but Toure’s arrival has certainly helped them defensively. Denayer and Van Dijk were probably the best defensive pairing the SPL has had for a long time but they maybe never had the firepower at the time.
“Last year they were so reliant on Leigh Griffiths but now Sinclair looks like he can score 25 goals in the league this season. Dembele will score something like that as well and maybe more and Griffiths is still capable of that so you are probably talking between three players potentially 70 goals.
“It doesn’t sound too far-fetched and that is a lot to stop and I do think with Toure being there at centre-back it helps whoever he plays with be more solid.”