Aberdeen have a fight on their hands to ensure they finish in second place in the Premiership for the fourth season in a row.
They have already been in a to-and-fro tussle with Rangers, who are their main rivals for that runner-up place, but Hibernian’s 2-0 win over the Dons last Saturday has re-ignited the Edinburgh team’s hopes of making a late surge.
Dons manager Derek McInnes has 11 games to ensure it is his side which finishes best of the rest, including further games against Rangers and Hibs after the split. Celtic visit Pittodrie on Sunday.
With Rangers and Hibs in the Premiership along with Hearts, competition to finish behind Celtic is as strong as it has ever been.
McInnes said: “At the start of the season Rangers were favourites to finish second and Hibs were certainly going to push us. But we don’t want to give up the spot and need to go on a run we know we’re capable of doing.
“We needed to be far better against Hibs and, even when it was 0-0, I was looking for more from us. When one side needed to step it up, Hibs did.
“With 11 games to go, we can’t have too many days like Saturday if we want to finish second. At the very least that’s what we’re working towards.”
There was certainly no sign of the poor performance to come given how well the Dons had performed against Dundee United and Hamilton Accies.
A first win over an Old Firm side this season would prove the perfect tonic for McInnes and Aberdeen, with Sunday a chance to re-assert themselves.
McInnes added: “Regardless of who we play we’re looking for an improvement in performance. It’s the toughest game for any team coming up against Celtic. Hopefully we can get a response because the players are hurting. We were second best against Hibs but we’ll dust ourselves down and go again.”
Aberdeen will have to do it without captain Graeme Shinnie again as he serves the second of a two-game suspension after also missing the Easter Road defeat.