Defender Andy Considine has warned their rivals Aberdeen will be stronger in the second half of the season – even before boss Derek McInnes secures new signings.
The Dons today flew out to Dubai for a warm-weather training camp just three points off the top of the Premiership table.
A week in the Middle East will prepare the Reds for a league assault in the second half of the season.
McInnes also aims to secure new additions to bolster that bid.
A left-back, a position Considine has occupied in recent seasons, and a striker have been identified as the manager’s main priorities.
Regardless of the outcome of new additions coming in, Considine insists the Dons will still be stronger due to the return of key players from long-term injury.
Centre-backs Mikey Devlin, Tommie Hoban and Mark Reynolds are all set to return to training in Dubai after extended spells on the sidelines.
Devlin has been out with foot ligament damage since November but is ready to return to training.
Out since undergoing knee surgery in July, Reynolds recently returned to full training and was in Pittodrie last week doing gym work to get in top shape for Dubai while the squad were on a break.
Watford defender Hoban will also fly out to Dubai and hopes to be fit to face Stenhousemuir in the Scottish Cup on their return.
Hoban has not featured since undergoing shoulder surgery in early September and he has undergone rehab at his parent club.
The 24-year-old reported for duty at Pittodrie last week and will spend the rest of the season on loan with the Dons.
Considine said: “We will have Mark and Tommie back, guys who have been out for most of the season.
“That has been unfortunate, but they will be back soon which will be a huge boost.
“We had been a little bit thin across the back recently due to injuries.
“Now we can really look forward to some key players coming back as there is also Mikey set to return and hopefully Gary (Mackay-Steven) as well.
“We look forward to them coming back as they will give us a real boost. Will there be any new additions in January as well, who knows?”
As they fly to the sun in Dubai there is finally respite from the defensive injury crisis, particularly at centre-back, that has dogged the Reds.
It began in pre-season as Reynolds suffered cruciate ligament damage that required surgery in a friendly against Cove Rangers in July.
On-loan Hoban also went under the knife when injuring his shoulder in the 1-1 draw at Hibs in August.
Devlin sustained an injury during training with the Scotland squad when he was set to earn his debut cap against Albania in the Uefa Nations League qualifiers in November.
Scotland international centre-back Scott McKenna also missed six weeks of action early in the season after sustaining a hamstring injury in a 1-1 draw with Rangers in the Premiership opener.
Such was the dearth of available centre-backs for most of the congested December run, Considine switched from left-back to right-sided centre-back.
He said: “I have always quite preferred centre-back and if it is on the right side, so be it.
“I played there for six months under Craig Brown and Archie Knox, alongside Reynolds. So it doesn’t bother me.
“I was just happy to be playing and helping the team get results.”
Now into his 16th season as a first-team player at Aberdeen, Considine has been a virtual ever present this season and played every minute of the nine games packed into December.
It was a run of fixtures that began with a 1-0 Betfred Cup final loss to Celtic on December 2.
Following that disappointment, the Reds rallied to secure six wins from eight league games to move within touching distance of the top of the table.
Having been in the bottom six at the start of last month, the defender was always confident they would rise up towards the top.
Considine said: “We knew December was going to be massive for us.
“If we could come through it with three-quarters good results we knew we would be sitting in the top four.
“That gives us that platform to kick on in the new year.”
Aberdeen’s aspirations of being Celtic’s main challengers last season were written off going into the top-six split.
The Reds responded and secured a fourth successive runners-up slot in the final game of the season, a 1-0 defeat of Celtic at Parkhead with Considine scoring the goal.
Considine aims to silence critics again this season.
He said: “Last season people were saying we are not going to finish second, this, that and the next thing. Just because Rangers were back in the league.
“We just let our football talk.
“Yes, it went to the last day, so be it. But we managed to do it and the rest of the teams were looking up at us.”
Aberdeen’s form in a congested December revitalised their Premiership campaign. He admits a week in Dubai is the perfect remedy for a month of hard grind.
Considine said: “The games were coming thick and fast and it was literally play, rest, train play.
“It was a tough shift as I don’t think I have ever came across so many games in just the one month.
“It was because we were involved in the league cup final, but we would rather be involved in that than not.
“The past couple of years Dubai has been great for us.
“It is time for us to regroup for the second half of the season.
“After the Livingston game (2-1 win) we got seven days with our families then we headed out to Dubai. It is a great time just to get back into business and back into training.”