McInnes says Celtic could blow away all challengers in title race
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.