Aberdeen confidence not dented for Celtic visit - Derek McInnes
Derek McInnes thinks Celtic present a more daunting challenge this season but still believes his Aberdeen side can beat the champions on Saturday.
And his confidence has not been dented by the midweek loss to Hamilton Accies.
"Rather than come back towards the rest of the teams, I think they are actually getting better," said the Dons manager.
"But we feel a bit of pride that we've managed to put up some sort of fight with them the last couple of years and have beaten them a few times."
Celtic overpowered Aberdeen 4-1 in the first meeting between the sides in Glasgow back in August.
And Saturday's visitors are seven points clear of the second-top Dons, with a game in hand.
"Celtic have got good players, they've got good form, I think they're playing with good confidence, there's a better feeling about Celtic at the minute, with togetherness even with their support - they believe in their manager and they believe in their team," said McInnes.
"So, with all that added, it adds a bit more weight to their strength.
"But I think we've got that going here with our club and our support and we've got good players who should take confidence from their form, take confidence from beating Rangers here and take confidence from beating Celtic twice last year."
McInnes thinks that Celtic's improvement can be put down to the summer signings of defender Kolo Toure, winger Scott Sinclair and striker Moussa Dembele, plus the arrival of Brendan Rodgers as manager.
"I've said before their improvements this year, which I think is clear, Celtic have to have a poor season by their standards to allow anybody else to get close to them," he said.
"Our team and other teams will feel that we've got to try to fight even harder to stay close to them.
"It is still early on, but certainly at the minute, they do look like a team who aren't going to drop as many points as they have maybe done in previous years.
"I don't see it as disheartening, but I think it's something that is a bigger challenge for us and we have to take that challenge on rather than accept it."
Three goals in the closing minutes gave Celtic a 4-0 win over Ross County 24 hours after the Dons' unbeaten run was ended with a 1-0 defeat in Hamilton.
"If we can go and win the next six and lose the seventh game every time then I would take that kind of form," said McInnes.
However, he admitted that it was vital that the Dons prevented Celtic extending their lead further.
"I think it is important, when you get the chance to play them, you beat them," added McInnes. "That helped us to stay close to them last year."
Aberdeen hope that defender Ash Taylor and striker Jayden Stockley will have recovered from thigh strains, while captain Ryan Jack could return to midfield after coming through a midweek reserve game.