Fraserburgh manager Mark Cowie is confident his side can handle the pressure of being among the frontrunners this season.
The Highland League side get their new campaign under way today when rivals Inverurie Locos visit Bellslea Park in the second round of the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup.
Cowie expects the new campaign to be even more competitive, but insists his players are ready.
He said: “We have established ourselves as one of the top sides in the league, but once you are in that bracket of being so-called favourites you find teams raise their game against you.
We are viewed as a scalp and teams want to lay down a marker by beating us. It’s something we have become used to facing in recent seasons and we’re up for the challenge.
“We want to be competing in every competition we take part in.
“A shorter season this time around has brought a new aspect. We might be at part-time level, but we will see just how much this game means to players and from our point of view, we are itching to get going.”
An end to a six-month break between seasons is in sight for the Broch and Cowie says his players are eager to get going after their long lay-off.
He said: “It has been difficult to keep everyone motivated in the last six months, but since having that end goal of games to aim for we’ve seen a change around the place.
“There’s been a marked step up in training in the last couple of weeks since we had confirmation of the season starting and then the fixtures coming out. Considering how long it has been, the players have adapted really well.
“We had a settled squad at the end of last season and we’ve not felt we have to chop and change things.
“We’ve added a couple of lads who we had earmarked before and, during this long close season, it has been a case of trying to work hard to make sure we were ready for whenever the football returned.”
Locos travel to the Broch having had the benefit of completing their first 90 minutes in midweek thanks to their 2-1 win against Turriff United at Harlaw Park.
Inverurie boss Andy Low knows the Broch will be formidable opponents, but is looking forward to the tie and challenges ahead in the new campaign.
He said: “It has been a lot different due to Covid and it’s all been a bit stop-start in terms of preparing for the new season, but it’s great to be back playing.
“Bellslea is one of the toughest places to go in the Highland League and I have a lot of admiration for Fraserburgh and how they go about their business.
“I’m sure our guys will have benefited from the game on Tuesday night and we are going up there with confidence.
“It does feel like this season is going to be a sprint and, in terms of the league, any team wanting to challenge at the top cannot afford to lose too many games.
“I think it will be a lot closer because we’re all playing each other only once and you just need to look at the fixtures to see there will be no easier periods for any team.
“I still think Brora and Fraserburgh are the favourites, but I don’t think we’ll see a team pull clear in the way Brora did last season.
“All the games will be tough and, when you add in the cup-ties, it’s going to be a really challenging year.
“After such a long wait to get going, the games will be coming thick and fast, so it is important we get up to speed as quick as we can.”