Dons boss Derek McInnes has urged his side to take an important step towards securing European football with victory over Motherwell tonight.
The third-placed Steelmen visit Pittodrie this evening in what could be a critical fixture in the battle for a Europa League spot come the end of the season.
Finishing third will guarantee a place in European competition next campaign. Aberdeen have qualified for Continental tournaments in each of the last six seasons under McInnes.
Securing a Europa League place again is the Reds’ primary ambition and McInnes is keen to pick up three points tonight which will move his men into third spot and closer to their target.
The Pittodrie gaffer expects Motherwell to push the Dons in the second half of the season but said: “The motivation for us at the start of any league campaign is to secure European football as quickly as possible.
“That hasn’t changed this season. We’ve got a bit to do and improvements will be required in the second half of the season to deliver that. We’re motivated to get to that European spot and we know what needs to be done.
“We know where Celtic and Rangers are and it’s difficult for the players and supporters.
“We don’t want to just accept third is the best we can do.
“But right now we know the targets set for ourselves and hopefully come the end of the season we can be happy with our work through the league and the cup.”
Aberdeen beat Motherwell 3-0 at Fir Park in October and McInnes takes some heart from that display ahead of tonight.
He added: “It’s ironic that on Saturday against Dumbarton (1-0 Scottish Cup win) we played with two strikers (Sam Cosgrove and Bruce Anderson), two wingers (Connor McLennan and Niall McGinn) and two creative midfielders (Dylan McGeouch and Funso Ojo).
“We had that and it took until four minutes from time to break the deadlock.
“Down at Motherwell that day we had six defenders on the pitch, two of our full-backs playing in midfield with Jon Gallagher.
“With the injuries and suspensions we had then it was stacked against us.
“But we were as potent as we have been at any point this season and produced a good performance.
“We went there and picked a team to be solid and compete and it was a team that was picked through necessity really, but we still carried a lot of threat.
“So it just shows you can pick a really attacking team and it doesn’t turn out as you’d think.
“The performance, intelligence and work rate of the team to win that day were very good at Motherwell.
“They were in good form coming into the game and it was probably a bit of a surprise.
“For me it’s not a real indication for this game.
“It’s two good teams going head to head again and I think both will be disappointed if they don’t win it.
“There’s still a lot of football to be played, but if we can win it then it’s a good three points.
“I don’t think it means a lot more than that, but hopefully we can come out on the right side of the result.”
It appears McInnes will have to wait until the summer to link up with Matty Kennedy.
The St Johnstone winger signed a pre-contract agreement with Aberdeen and McInnes would like to bring the 25-year-old to Pittodrie in this window.
Striker Curtis Main has reportedly been offered in a player swap deal, but Saints appear to be holding out for a fee.
The Dons have managed to sign 18-year-old midfielder Mark Gallagher from Ross County for their development squad after agreeing player training compensation with the Staggies.
McInnes said: “Having watched him against our reserve team at Peterhead earlier in the season he really impressed me.
“He’s very good on the ball and easy on the eye and we’ve kept tabs on him since.
“There are always boys that catch the eye when you watch youth team or reserve games, but it’s not always easy to get them into the club.
“Thankfully Ross County have been good with us and thankfully we’ve managed to get Mark here.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on him just now, because he is signed for the development squad.”
James Wilson (knee), is a doubt for tonight with Greg Leigh, Scott Wright, Craig Bryson and Zak Vyner all still out.