Aberdeen go into the opening weekend of the Scottish Premiership season with huge expectations to provide a closer challenge to Celtic this season.
Having flirted with a title challenge last season, even topping the table at the start of January, the Dons ran out of steam in the end and their faint hopes ended with three games to spare as the Hoops clinched their fourth title in succession.
Given the resources Ronny Deila’s men have at their disposal, it’s going to be difficult for Aberdeen to maintain a challenge but Derek McInnes is working hard to give them a chance of giving Celtic a run for their money.
Retaining their squad from last season and adding the highly rated Inverness left back Graeme Shinnie, Ross County centre back Paul Quinn and the on-loan Liverpool keeper Danny Ward gives the Dons hope of another solid campaign.
There is also the determination to add more silverware to add to the League Cup triumph of 2014 and the Cup competitions were the main disappointment to an otherwise solid campaign last term.
Losing at the first hurdle in the Scottish Cup to Dundee was a sore one to take, especially having dominated the game, whilst their League Cup defence ended courtesy of two sloppy goals against Dundee United in the Semi Final. Therefore, getting back to a Cup Final must be high on McInnes’s priority.
But it’s the League campaign where Aberdeen will be under the most scrutiny from the media to see whether they can give Celtic the challenge that, let’s face it, Scottish a Football needs and stop another canter to five-in-a-row.
Having strolled to second place with four games to spare last season, the Dons are expected to have that nailed-on again so getting closer to the Hoops will be seen as progress.
Let’s be realistic though, Celtic with their superior resources and an improved squad will win the League again barring an almighty collapse and Aberdeen wont have it all too easy to secure second again.
Dundee United have money to spend following the sales of several key players over the past year, Hearts are resurgent again having runaway with the Championship and Inverness will be aiming to build on their great success of last season.
Like last season, the Dons go into the domestic campaign having already kicked off their season in the Europa League and, by coincidence, begin their Premiership season against Dundee United, this time at Tannadice.
Whilst the early start gives Aberdeen match sharpness ahead of the others and the result against Rijeka has given the club and Scottish Football a significant boost, the European campaign does take a lot out of the players, as was shown when United came away from Pittodrie convincing 3-0 winners.
This time, Aberdeen will have just come back from a 9,000 mile round trip to Kazakhstan by the time they take to the turf at Tannadice.
However, this time Aberdeen have a stronger squad as they seek to put an early mark on the new season.
Optimism is high in the Granite City that Aberdeen can enjoy yet another good season under Derek McInnes.
Just how successful can it be? The points difference between ourselves and Celtic and our progress in the Cup Competitions will define that.
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