Former Aberdeen striker Frank McDougall insists the Dons are still the second best team in Scotland and Derek McInnes will prove it once the club’s injury crisis eases.
The Dons are eighth in the Premiership after a sluggish start and face a huge week in league and cup duty as they face Motherwell, Hibernian and champions Celtic.
One win in five games has made for a testing start for the Dons but McDougall said: “A week is a long time in football and the next three games could change the outlook rapidly.
“The next week is a big one for them though and they are facing three massive games against Motherwell on Saturday, the League Cup tie at Hibs in midweek and then a trip to Parkhead to play Celtic.
“I still expect Celtic to win the league and Rangers are doing OK just now but I still believe Aberdeen are the better side when playing at their best and Derek will get it right. He has a lot of affection for Aberdeen and I know how he feels as I still love it too.
“Aberdeen have some class players and it’s early days in the season. They’re going through a tough time of it due to injuries but they’ll get through it.
“I watched the St Johstone game on Saturday and you could see they were struggling to find their rhythm due the injuries. It’s a shame but Derek has been in the game long enough to know you just have to get on with it.
“I don’t think he has fielded the same back four all season and without the platform at the back it can be difficult but Aberdeen are a big club and they have handled it reasonably well. For all their problems they’ve only lost once and that was after playing almost the whole game with 10 men.”
The League Cup demolition of St Mirren showed what Aberdeen are capable of when on form and McDougall believes captain Graeme Shinnie and wingers Niall McGinn and Gary Mackay-Steven are the three key players during this testing spell for the club.
He said: “I spoke to Derek last year when I was at Pittodrie as an ambassador and he told me then he was looking for a centre forward with pace as he felt he didn’t have one in that mould at the club.
“He clearly sees James Wilson from Manchester United as the guy. I saw him when he came into the United team and he scored a couple of goals then disappeared off the face of the earth at Old Trafford so he’s an unknown quantity for me.
“But Niall McGinn is another option for Derek there if needed too and he showed his quality with a class goal at the weekend. He is a fantastic player as is Gary Mackay-Steven and I’m a big fan of Graeme Shinnie too. They are the players the manager will be looking to lead the way.”