Manager Derek McInnes believes Aberdeen are in a stronger position to secure Scottish Cup glory than when the tournament was put into cold storage last season.
Aberdeen will face Celtic in the long-delayed semi-final of last season’s Scottish Cup at Hampden on Sunday.
The tie was initially scheduled for April 12, but was put on ice when Scottish football was shut down on March 13 due to the pandemic.
Although the SPFL called time on the Premiership title race the SFA were committed to ensuring the country’s most prestigious cup competition was completed.
Despite a summer transfer window overshadowed by multi-million-pound losses at the club due to the Covid-19 crisis, McInnes strengthened his squad.
Jonny Hayes returned to the club having left Celtic and, despite featuring for the Hoops in the tournament last season, will not be cup-tied for Sunday’s semi-clash.
Also arriving at Pittodrie this season were Ross McCrorie, Tommie Hoban and Greg Leigh.
Marley Watkins (Bristol City) and Ryan Edmondson (Leeds) were also secured on loan.
Winger Scott Wright has returned to fitness and impressive form after long-term injury ruled him out last season.
McInnes said: “Our form was improving last season, but I have to say we are in a better place now for this semi-final than we would have been last season.
“Our additions have been good, boys are bursting for games and really looking forward to it.
“I feel we have started the season well and overcome certain challenges.
“The form of the team and the squad numbers are good.
“I am more than hopeful we can have a good season. This is a cup competition carried on from last season.
“We have earned the right, despite a challenging season last year, to play this semi-final.”
McInnes ended Aberdeen’s 19-year trophy drought in 2014 when leading the club to League Cup success in his first full season. He is determined to take a step closer on Sunday to adding another trophy and ending Aberdeen’s 30-year wait to raise the Scottish Cup.
At stake is a final clash on December 20 against the winner of Saturday’s Edinburgh derby between Hibernian and Hearts.
McInnes said: “It would be significant for us to get to a final.
“We have beaten a couple of Premier League teams to get to here and we obviously now face a strong Celtic team.
“The confidence we would take from beating Celtic in a semi-final would serve us well going into a final.
“We see this as an opportunity to add silverware.”
While Aberdeen are stronger position now than when the semi was initially scheduled in April, defending champions Celtic are arguably in a worse position.
Aberdeen’s injury-time leveller to secure a 3-3 draw at Pittodrie on Sunday extended Celtic’s run without a win to three games following defeat to Rangers (2-0) and Milan (3-1).
Celtic boss Neil Lennon this week criticised the “hysteria” of reports his job could be under threat – despite chasing down an unprecedented fourth consecutive treble.
The pressure on Lennon and his team could yet increase even further before Sunday’s clash as they face in form Lille in France tonight in the Europa League.
McInnes believes Lennon has the experience to navigate through recent troubled waters, but is only concerned about leading his team to victory over the cup holders at Hampden.
McInnes said: “When you sign up a manager anywhere you have to take it in the neck and develop a thick skin and no more so than if you manage a club like Celtic.
“Neil is a proven manager. It is nowhere that he hasn’t been before. He will lean on his experience and get through it.
“For us, I am more concerned about my own team.
“It will be hard to overcome a team who have shown how good they have been in cup competitions over the last few seasons. I also feel we are a good cup team ourselves and Sunday gives us the opportunity to go and show that.”