Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes today insisted his side have not been given the recognition they deserve this season for pushing for a Premiership runners-up finish.
Following a hectic summer transfer window McInnes recently claimed this was the first year of a new-look Dons squad.
Aberdeen Mark II sit three points clear of rivals Rangers and Hibs in second spot as they bid to finish runners-up for a fourth straight campaign.
Victory over Hibs at Pittodrie today would effectively eradicate the Edinburgh side from the three-way battle to finish runners-up.
A win at a packed Pittodrie today would also see the Reds smash the 70-point mark for a fourth successive season.
McInnes reckons his new-look Reds have done well this season. But he is frustrated that newly-promoted Hibs have received all the plaudits and Rangers all the attention.
He hopes the balance will switch back towards the Dons if they can win today and go on to secure second.
McInnes said: “I think my players have done particularly well this season. We’re sitting in second spot at the minute.
“A lot gets said about the teams round about us, but we don’t seem to be getting that same recognition as a team for my players.
“It is a new squad for us and we are up there again and have the potential to break the 70-point mark once more, for the fourth year in a row.
“Only two other teams in the last 15 years have broken 70 points outwith the Old Firm – Motherwell and Hearts.
“That would show the consistency of work that is being done here. Sometimes that good work doesn’t always hit home with people.
“So hopefully if we win (against Hibs) people will maybe recognise the good work being done at Aberdeen.”
The Reds will move to 71 points today if they overcome Neil Lennon’s side.
McInnes was spot on with his observation about the only other teams to breach the 70-point mark outside Celtic and Rangers in the last decade and a half – they were Hearts (74 points, 2006) and Motherwell (70 points, 2014).
Breaking 70 points and potentially finishing second for a fourth straight season would add up to no mean feat for a Dons side working on a fraction of the budget of champions Celtic.
However, what Scottish football and fans want is a realistic and sustained title bid to challenge Celtic’s dominance. Rangers’ moved for ex-England skipper Steven Gerrard to launch a bid.
Challenging Celtic remains the ultimate target for McInnes but he accepts the sheer gulf in finances, with the Celts pocketing £28 million alone from Champions League involvement, makes that increasingly problematic.
He said: “Finishing second is not easy. A lot of good things are needed and need to be done to get the runners-up finish in the Premiership.
“We would love to be competing for first but it is beyond everyone at the minute with the way Celtic are.
“For us to finish second for the fourth year in a row would be fantastic.”
Four players are out of contract at the end of the season although McInnes has confirmed there will be no confirmation of their futures until after the race for second spot has been concluded.
Defenders Anthony O’Connor, Kari Arnason, striker Nicky Maynard and keeper Danny Rogers all have deals set to expire.
Rogers is expected to sign a new two-year contract.
First, though, is a fixture the top-six split was designed to engineer – a game with so much riding on it that has excited the supporters.
McInnes said: “We are in good form and have won five and lost one in the league.
“At home we have been very strong of late, as we have been most seasons.
“We have attacked the post-split fixtures well with two 2-0 victories, which was very convincing,
“Hibs at home is another huge game. I said at the start of the season Hibs would be up there and everything they’ve done since then has reinforced that.
“They’ve been really strong, but we look forward to trying to see off that challenge and look to win the game.
“We are into the business end of the season and are a team that want to finish second.
“I don’t think it’s a must-win game for both teams, but it would certainly help our cause by winning the game.”
Hibs midfielder Dylan McGeouch could wear a bespoke mask today having suffered a fracture below his eye in the defeat of Celtic.
McInnes had targeted McGeouch as a potential summer signing but the 25-year-old looks set to move to England. Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean, who will return to Norwich City in the summer, is suspended for today’s game.
McInnes said: “We are without Kenny which is a real blow but something we will have to overcome.
“Kenny’s influence on the team is clear but the reason you have a squad is to cope with that loss. We have shown we can cope without one or two key players.
“However, sometimes beyond that it’s a struggle like most teams, but we’ve won games without a key player before.”
On-loan Manchester City midfielder Chidi Nwakali is out with an ankle injury.