McInnes says Celtic could blow away all chal­lengers in ti­tle race

The Herald - Herald Sport - - LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP - FRANK GILFEATHER

DEREK McINNES ad­mits Aberdeen will face an up­hill strug­gle in their at­tempts to chal­lenge Celtic for the Lad­brokes Pre­mier­ship ti­tle should his side lose to the Scot­tish cham­pi­ons at Pit­to­drie to­mor­row.

Aberdeen were the clos­est chal­lengers to the Park­head club in the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons; how­ever, Celtic were 17 and 15 points ahead by the end of each cam­paign re­spec­tively.

With eight wins and a draw so far this term pro­pel­ling Bren­dan Rodgers’s side seven points clear with a game in hand, the Pit­to­drie man­ager still feels it would be dis­re­spect­ful to sug­gest that Celtic are al­ready romp­ing to­wards the cham­pi­onship.

But McInnes is re­al­is­tic when he con­sid­ers the fire­power Celtic have in the form of Moussa Dem­bele, Leigh Grif­fiths and Scott Sin­clair, with the ar­rival of 35-year-old Kolo Toure shor­ing up the de­fen­sive side of things.

“Last year they were so re­liant on Grif­fiths,” McInnes said. “But now Sin­clair looks like he can score 25 goals in the league this sea­son.

“Dem­bele will score some­thing like that as well and maybe more and Grif­fith is still ca­pa­ble of that, so you are prob­a­bly talk­ing be­tween three play­ers po­ten­tially 70 goals.

“It doesn’t sound too far-fetched and that is a lot to stop and I do think with Toure be­ing there at cen­tre-back it helps who­ever he plays with to be more solid.”

Yet McInnes is far from wav­ing the white flag, hav­ing worked hard to put to­gether a squad with at­tack­ing flair and stoic de­fend­ing him­self.

“Only a fool would say Celtic aren’t go­ing to win the league the way they have started the sea­son,” he ad­mit­ted. “But we all have re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to make sure it is not too com­fort­able for them.

“They have lit­tle bits of doubt through­out the sea­son and there is no bet­ter time than when you play them your­self.

“You can leave your mark on them and do dam­age to them by win­ning the game; that is our in­ten­tion for Satur­day and I think that helped us stay with Celtic last sea­son.

“I don’t think they won the league un­til three games to go and us beat­ing them twice at Pit­to­drie was a big part in that.

“I have al­ways said Celtic will need to have a poorer sea­son by their stan­dards for oth­ers to get close to them. They ac­tu­ally have im­proved and that makes the chal­lenge more dif­fi­cult but I don’t think we should just roll over ei­ther.

“We have a bit of pride in our­selves and we want to give them some­thing to think about. The only time we can re­ally do that is when we play them.”

Aberdeen hope to have cen­tre-back Ash Tay­lor, in­jured early in the win against Ross County two weeks ago, ready to face what­ever strike­force Rodgers de­cides to fea­ture to­mor­row as McInnes looks to keep things alive for a lit­tle longer.

“There are still a lot of points to play for but it is very dif­fi­cult for ev­ery­body be­fore a ball is even kicked when you see the play­ers Celtic bring in and how their man­ager is work­ing,” he said.

“There’s real im­prove­ment there but there is still time to make things more un­com­fort­able for them, not just from us but from oth­ers.

“After all the gap could be down to four points on Satur­day and at the minute I’m just think­ing we have got a chance to try and halt them.”

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Aberdeen man­ager Derek McInnes is fo­cused on keep­ing track of Celtic this sea­son.

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