Aberdeen defender Andy Considine is confident the Dons can give Celtic a tougher title challenge this season.
The Dons finished 30 points behind Brendan Rodgers’ side last term with the Hoops completing all 38 games without suffering a single defeat.
But their 69-game unbeaten domestic run was halted by Hearts on Sunday with Craig Levein’s men recording an unexpected 4-0 Tynecastle triumph.
The Dons are only two points behind the league leaders, who host Partick Thistle this evening, ahead of Saturday’s meeting between’s Scotland’s top two at Celtic Park.
After helping the Dons record three wins on the spin, Considine reckons Derek McInnes’ side are capable of pushing the title favourites all the way this time.
He said: “Hopefully we can close the gap.
“They have had a very busy period with European football and there has maybe been an element of tiredness.
“It is going to be tough with the resources that Celtic have.
“If they want they can spend a couple of million in the January transfer window when the rest of the teams in the league can only pull in a loan here and there.
“They have some very good players who can create chances. They can be quiet for a while and then produce a bit of magic.
“But I feel that with the strength of the league this season there is every chance we can close that gap.”
The Dons lost all six matches against the Hoops last season with defeats in the four league meetings and both cup finals.
They were also swept aside in a 3-0 home defeat in October and Considine is hoping for an improved display this weekend.
He added: “We went into the first game of the season against Celtic on the back of a good run.
“We had a great chance and we set-up well but we showed them too much respect.
“Instead of being a yard off our opponent we were three or four which gave them a chance to turn and play passes down the side.
“When we got the ball we weren’t as good in possession as they were.
“You need to be good in possession when you are doing that much chasing and you need options on the ball to hurt Celtic.
“We know it is going to be tough.”