Aberdeen motivated by Burnley and Rangers challenges, says Tony Docherty
Aberdeen will rise to the expected tougher test provided by Steven Gerrard's appointment at Ibrox, says Dons assistant Tony Docherty.
The Dons have finished runners-up to Celtic four seasons in a row - the last two a place ahead of Rangers.
Derek McInnes' side also face a difficult Europa League qualifying opener against Burnley.
"It is going to be more of a challenge, but we are up for a challenge - we always are," Docherty told Red TV.
"It is brilliant. It gives the players a lot more focus.
"The players are a lot more motivated because they know it brings them more exposure."
Aberdeen have also been given a tough Premiership opener, hosting what will be former Liverpool and England captain Gerrard's first league game as Rangers manager.
And Docherty realises that pundits are again predicting that the Dons will find it difficult to overcome not just Rangers but an improving Hibernian, who finished fourth in their first season back in the top flight, and a Hearts side being reshaped by Craig Levein after a disappointing sixth place.
"Bring it on," he said. "We really relish the prospect of not just the European thing with Burnley but the start of the season with Rangers strengthening and Celtic being what they are and Hearts and Hibs."
Docherty suggested that McInnes' Dons will again "work under the radar" to achieve success and is heartened by the way the players have responded during pre-season training in Ireland.
"They'll not shrink," he said. "They'll grow into this environment and make sure we do what we've done in previous years.
"We know what we do and we're confident in our abilities to get the job done and so it is no different this season."
Docherty admitted that the second qualifying draw for the Europa League had given Aberdeen's players added focus.
"When the European draw first came out, you think 'fantastic, bring it on'," he added.
"What a game for us to play and that's a real carrot for the boys - a real motivation.
"You can say in every session - get ready for Burnley and, not just that, Rangers. It is a great start for us.
"That all helps in terms of motivation to get through this pre-season and be the fittest footballer you can be."