Ross County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell will not allow his players to treat the Betfred Cup group stage as a warm-up for the Premiership campaign.
The Staggies are in competitive action for the first time this season when they host Montrose in their opening Group B fixture. County will also take on Brechin City, St Johnstone and Forfar Athletic in their bid to secure a place in round two of the competition.
County were stunned in a 4-1 loss to Arbroath at Gayfield in their section last season, but held firm to qualify for the last 16 as group winners.
Although the tournament provides an opportunity for the Staggies to hone their preparations for their opening Premiership game at home to Hamilton Accies on August 3, Kettlewell still expects results.
Kettlewell said: “We all saw there were a few shocks last season.
“It is easy, when you lose the game, to say it’s part of pre-season, but I don’t buy into that.
“I’m not being disrespectful to Montrose, but pressure was heaped on us all last season and we’ll be telling the players we expect them to win the game of football.
“It will be difficult. I know Stewart Petrie will have them very well organised. They had an excellent season last year.
“I don’t see too much being different for them this year, so it’s going to be a tough test.
“But I think it becomes a pre-season game when you lose it, but when you win you take loads of positives.
“It’s up to us to try and take as many positives from it as we can – and for myself and Steven Ferguson that’s winning the game of football.”
Kettlewell hopes supporters will be attracted by the prospect of watching the newly-promoted Staggies in competitive action for the first time this term, against a Gable Endies side which finished fourth in League 1 last season to reach the promotion play-offs.
Kettlewell added: “We look forward to playing a game that actually means something.
“Friendlies are fine, but I’m a fan of the group stages. I like it.
“A lot of people say it is too much, too soon, but we’re all preparing for the same thing and the same goals.
“Why not let it start as early as possible? Why not pitch players into situations they are going to face over the course of the season.
“In our camp, we’re thoroughly looking forward to it and it is nice to kick it all off at home.
“The pitch is looking beautiful and hopefully the supporters turn out in decent numbers, although I know it is difficult at this time of year.”
County will be without injured quartet Kenny van der Weg, Don Cowie, Ross Draper and Daniel Armstrong.