Gothenburg Great Neale Cooper believes Aberdeen’s memorable week has laid the foundations for a successful season.
Dons manager Derek McInnes enjoyed one of the most productive weeks of his tenure by building on the 3-1 win at Dundee with a Betfred Cup quarter-final success against St Johnstone before Sunday’s 2-1 Premiership victory against Rangers in front of a capacity crowd at Pittodrie.
The Dons have risen from seventh to second in the Scottish Premiership and will start as favourites against Championship club Morton at Hampden on October 22 in the cup semi-final.
Cooper believes the Dons have demonstrated they can challenge in all three competitions this season.
He said: “Some of the Aberdeen supporters were a little bit concerned with how the season started but the three wins in quick succession have made everyone feel very positive.
“Aberdeen are definitely the closest challengers to Celtic.
“I was confident they would do well against Rangers and they managed to get the win thanks to a wonderful free kick from James Maddison.
“I still think Aberdeen will be the team chasing Celtic. Can they catch them? Time well tell. They just need to take care of their own games and hope Celtic go through a sticky spell.
“Ryan Jack is still to come back and being in a semi-final will boost the players’ confidence.
“Aberdeen need to be contending in both cup competitions and doing well in the league – and they look strong enough to do it.”
While Maddison took the plaudits on Sunday, Cooper felt the Aberdeen defence deserved praise for containing a Rangers side which had 59% possession but struggled to test goalkeeper Joe Lewis.
He added: “Aberdeen look really strong at the back. The goalkeeper has been impressive and Anthony O’ Connor has been an excellent signing.
“Mark Reynolds came in for Ash Taylor and had a good game, while Andrew Considine never lets Aberdeen down.
“He always performs well and Shay Logan is also very consistent.
“James Maddison certainly looks a great player.
“I was surprised he didn’t start against Rangers but I could see what Derek was thinking by leaving him for the second half when the game would open up.
“Hopefully they can keep him beyond January as he is a very confident young player.”