Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes insists Kilmarnock can no longer be described as a surprise challengers in the Scottish Premiership.
Steve Clarke’s side moved up to second place courtesy of a 2-1 win against Rangers at Rugby Park on Wednesday but the Dons can move above the Ayrshire side if they beat Killie at Pittodrie tomorrow.
McInnes is long past the point of being surprised by the results Kilmarnock are achieving under their manager but has challenged his side to meet the challenge of jumping from fourth to second tomorrow.
He said: “The biggest compliment I can pay Kilmarnock is you find out they’ve beaten Rangers you’re never surprised.
“That’s a testament to the work Steve and his players have done. Any team can be good for a couple of months, but to do it for as long as Kilmarnock have done is testament to how good they’ve been. The short term aim for us is to go above them.
“There’s plenty football to go this season so I just want my players to deal with each and every game.
“We’ve got a lot of games coming up but the first one against Kilmarnock demands all the focus and hopefully we can be good enough to win it.
The Dons go into tomorrow’s match in confident mood following a 3-0 win at Hamilton on Wednesday with their victory at New Douglas Park keeping taking them level with Rangers in third and keeping Aberdeen three points behind leaders Celtic.
McInnes said: “The performance wasn’t perfect but I thought it was very professional for the majority.
“We spoke with the players about the importance of each three points. It’s too early to say it’s a title race. We’ve just got to knuckle down and get on with the job.
“We spoke about having that focus for each game. This one’s done and we now have to go deal with a good side in Kilmarnock.”
Aberdeen’s front four of Greg Stewart, Sam Cosgrove, Gary Mackay-Steven and Stevie May impressed at New Douglas Park and McInnes will be able to call on even more firepower tomorrow after leaving Niall McGinn as a unused substitute.
He said: “Niall we rested down as well as he was feeling his hamstring a wee bit and didn’t take any chances. Connor McLennan will hopefully be back for the weekend as another option.
“When you’ve got Mackay-Steven, Stewart, McGinn, Cosgrove and May there is decent movement, but the important thing is being a threat and we weren’t being a threat enough in the early stages of the season.
“There’s a goal at the end of the pitch for a reason and we weren’t doing enough to score more goals. Now we seem to seem to have grasped the importance of that and every player at the top end of the pitch have contributed recently.”