Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has finally admitted his side can win the Scottish Premiership.
Despite the Dons’ impressive form this season, McInnes has consistently played down his side’s chances of pipping Celtic to win the club’s first title since 1985.
‘One game at a time’ has been the mantra for the staff at Pittodrie but, with the Dons only one point behind the Hoops with nine games remaining, it looks like the fight for the championship is set to go right to the wire.
Leaders Celtic take on Partick Thistle this lunchtime before Aberdeen host Kilmarnock at Pittodrie in front of an expected crowd of 13,500 in what could be another important day in deciding the ultimate destination of the trophy.
When asked if his side can win the title, McInnes said: “It would be foolish to say that we are not in the fight now. I always thought privately with 38 games to go at the start of the season we could be good enough to put a fight and a challenge in.
“We can certainly be that with nine games to go and the reality is we were a penalty decision in the last minute against St Johnstone away from sitting top of the league right now.
“That’s why it would be foolish for me not to say at this stage of the season that we are in a fight.
“There is still a lot to do and every game is a challenge as was shown at Partick Thistle midweek as we had to dig deep to win.
“Every opponent we face has got something to play for, so we have to keep doing what we have been for the majority of the season.
“We are just trying to win games and the players are as relaxed as I’ve seen them all season.
“There is no anxiety as we are enjoying being where we are. We are a tight squad and they have earned the right to look forward to this home game.”
McInnes was delighted to see Kenny McLean included in the Scotland squad to face the Czech Republic later this month but was surprised that defender Graeme Shinnie was overlooked by national team manager Gordon Strachan. There was more good news when Jonny Hayes was called into the Repbulic of Ireland squad yesterday.
He said: “Kenny’s earned it and for him the challenge is to show between now and the end of the season that he should be a Scotland player.
“I thought Shinnie would have been in it but I’m biased because I know how much he wants it.
“I wouldn’t swap him for any other left back in the country and for me he is the best in the country.
“I wasn’t expecting Mark Reynolds and Ryan Jack to make it as they’ve been injured. So, we are disappointed.”