Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes believes Tommy Wright’s St Johnstone are genuine contenders to finish best of the rest behind champions-elect Celtic in the Scottish Premiership this season.
Perth Saints manager Wright has claimed his side is capable of taking the challenge to second-placed Hearts and the Dons, who are a point behind the Jambos after being held to a 1-1 draw by Hamilton Accies on Sunday.
The McDiarmid Park men have been in impressive form in recent weeks and have won eight of their previous nine matches, including a 5-1 win against Aberdeen at Pittodrie and a 3-1 victory against Rangers at Ibrox in the League Cup.
The Dons finished 10 points ahead of third-placed Caley Thistle last season and 18 ahead of fourth-placed St Johnstone, but McInnes, pictured below, is expecting a more difficult chase for the Europa League rewards this time around.
He said: “St Johnstone have probably been the most consistent team over the last few seasons in the top six and have been involved in the European places.
“There is nothing to suggest they won’t be there again.
“Tommy has put a very good squad together and has good options up front.
“He has different types of player and a good, experienced squad who have been over the course time and time again.
“As we and others have found, St Johnstone are a very tough opponent.”
McInnes believes other teams in the top flight can also force their way into the chase for the Europa League, including Saturday’s opponents Ross County, who are fifth in the table following a 3-0 success against Motherwell on Saturday.