Former Aberdeen captain Brian Irvine reckons hosting Steven Gerrard in his first league game as Rangers manager is the ideal curtain-raiser for the Dons.
Rangers will visit Pittodrie on August 5 to open their Premiership campaign and Irvine believes a positive result for the hosts could set the tone for the season.
Much of the attention has been on Gerrard since his appointment was confirmed in May and he has already begun work to reshape his squad. However, the Dons have been best-of-the-rest for the last four seasons and will not be ready to relinquish that position quietly.
A home tie against last season’s third-place side, who finished three points behind Derek McInnes’ men, generates real excitement for what lies in store, according to Irvine.
He said: “That possibly sets the tone for the season; a good result sets you up for the next few games. You couldn’t ask for a better opening game to whet the appetite. Initially it seems the challenge will be to make sure they are best of the rest, if they’re not going to win the league. You still need that goal – the league is beyond most teams outwith Celtic and the priorities for Aberdeen and Rangers have to be what’s around them.
“The fact it’s at Pittodrie gives Aberdeen a better chance. At Ibrox it might have been tougher but at Pittodrie you would be confident and hopeful they can get a result.
“Ideally by the time the first game comes around they will have played a few European games and have competitive games under their belt. I would be thinking that as a manager and players, we’re going to be the strongest challenge to Celtic, if not improving on that.”
McInnes will continue to strengthen his squad before the opening day but one man who has been linked with a move away is Adam Rooney, with reports yesterday suggesting Dundee United are keen to bring him to Tannadice.
Irvine said: “We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes but the only way it would make sense is if they’re going to get someone in to back-up the squad. Until there are things done, that would not be a good decision as he can still do a job.
“I always rated him and he’s taken his game to a different level at Aberdeen. He’s conducted himself well on and off the park, he’s a good representative of the club and a first-class player.”