Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie is determined to lay down an early marker in the race for a fifth successive Premiership runners-up finish when Rangers visit Pittodrie on Sunday.
The Dons play host to the Gers this weekend in new manager Steven Gerrard’s first domestic fixture since taking charge of the Ibrox club earlier this summer.
Both teams are in Europa League action just three days beforehand, with Aberdeen looking to defeat English Premier League side Burnley, and Rangers aiming to maintain a 1-0 first leg lead over Croatian outfit Osijek.
Despite the Light Blues winning three and drawing one of the matches against the Dons last season, it was Derek McInnes’ men who came out on top in the battle for second place, which they clinched courtesy of a final-day 1-0 victory over champions Celtic at Parkhead.
With an early head-to-head encounter this term, midfielder Shinnie hopes to get an early advantage in Sunday’s league opener but expects stiffer competition for the runners-up spot this time around.
Shinnie said: “I think we probably would have been saying the same last year, when Hibs were back in the league along with Rangers and Hearts.
“We finished second last year, so again it’s where people want to be. Rangers have probably got ambitions to try and challenge for the title and that’s understandable, but we are going to fight as much as we can to stay as close to the top as we can and try and finish second again.
“Every game you play, you want to put the marker down. Last year we didn’t have a great record against the Old Firm which was disappointing, so you want to change that and we want to show we are up for the fight again.”
Shinnie believes the Reds can set the tone for the forthcoming season with a strong start to the league campaign, with the Rangers fixture followed by a trips to Dundee and Hibernian.
Shinnie, who turns 27 on Saturday, is determined to ensure his side avoids playing catch up, adding: “It’s early doors in the season, but you want to get off to the best possible start. To get points on the board as quickly as you can leading up to Christmas time, it’s all about winning and trying to put points on the board.
“After that, it’s the business end of the season and you can see where you are. It’s important to try and play well and get the points early doors, and set yourself up for the season.”
The Dons have been drawn at home to Premiership newcomers St Mirren in the second round of the Betfred Cup, with the match taking place at Pittodrie on Saturday, August 18.
The Buddies encounter gives the Reds an early opportunity to kick start a cup run, having been knocked out of the quarter-final of the same competition last year by Motherwell, who also eliminated Aberdeen from the last-four of the Scottish Cup.
Shinnie, who captained Caley Thistle to Scottish Cup glory against Falkirk in 2015, is eager to repeat the feat with his hometown club, adding: “I would love to get my hands on silverware. I experienced that at Inverness and it’s one of the best days you will have.
“I would love to do it again at Aberdeen. Cup runs are always something that is important at the club.”