Midfielder Ross McCrorie has warned Premiership rivals Aberdeen have yet to hit top gear this season.
The Dons will face Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden on Sunday just a week after the two drew 3-3 in a Premiership thriller at Pittodrie.
The summer signing is confident the best has yet to come from a Dons side set to welcome back key players from long-term injury.
McCrorie insists self-belief is coursing through the Reds squad that they can overcome cup holders Celtic to secure a final slot on December 20.
He said: “I feel as if we still have another level to go and that we can still get stronger.
“You just need to look at our bench against Celtic, where we had players like Matty Kennedy and Sam Cosgrove, who is still working his way back to full fitness.
“There are a lot of other boys that are talented that were on the bench and some not even in the squad. We have real strength in depth and a talented squad.
“The semi is a massive game for us, there is no getting away from that. We will go into Sunday’s match with confidence and we have the belief in the team we can do something.”
For Scotland squad player McCrorie, the manner of the late comeback against Celtic is testament to the belief within Derek McInnes’ squad.
From 2-1 up with 15 minutes remaining and on the verge of a win which would have moved the Dons level on points with the Hoops, the Reds were suddenly trailing after conceding two quick-fire goals. Staring down the barrel of a ninth straight home loss to defending champions Celtic, they rallied to equalise in injury time.
McCrorie said: “We have a lot of character in the team and all the boys push each other on.
“We are never ones to put our heads down as we always believe we can go on and win a game.
“We have that never-say-die attitude and that showed against Celtic. Now we move on to Sunday’s game against them.”
Following the initial euphoria of the last-gasp penalty equaliser two minutes into injury time, McCrorie and his team-mates were ultimately left to rue a missed opportunity at victory.
Sunday’s clash is the long-delayed semi-final from last season, which was shut down on March 23 and ultimately cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It will be a quick return to the national stadium for McCrorie, who was an unused substitute for Scotland in the Uefa Nations League defeats of Slovakia and Czech Republic earlier this month, having received a first call-up to the national squad.
McCrorie insists Aberdeen will study footage from the 3-3 draw this week to find further improvements for the semi-final.
The 22-year-old said: “You could say we were disappointed not to take all three points as we had our chances. It was a great game with both teams at it.
“Sunday is a cup semi-final, so both teams will be going out to win it. We will do our analysis of the league game and look at what we could have done better.”
Aberdeen secured a point against the Hoops when Scotland U21 international Lewis Ferguson held his cool to net an injury time penalty to equalise.
Ferguson had earlier won a penalty, and converted it, to put the Reds 1-0 up at Pittodrie.
Now on nine goals for the season in all competitions, Ferguson is the top scorer in the Premiership on eight league goals – one clear of Hibs’ Kevin Nisbet.
McCrorie hailed his central midfield partner’s contribution.
He said: “Fergie has been brilliant and has not missed a penalty yet. We have full faith he will keep scoring them whenever we get the chance.”
The draw with Celtic was also significant for the comeback from long-term injury of striker Sam Cosgrove, Aberdeen’s leading scorer for the last two seasons. Introduced as a substitute in the second half, his shot led to Aberdeen’s second goal.
McCrorie said: “Sam was excellent when he came on.
“He is a big boy who ruffles the defenders up and you could tell they didn’t like it.
“It was good to get him back in the team. He is a top player.”