Hearts: Robbie Neilson targets second spot with win over Rangers

Bjorn Johansen scored twice in Saturday's 3-0 win over Motherwell
Hearts have won four of their seven home league matches this season

Head coach Robbie Neilson hopes Hearts can leapfrog Rangers into second place on Wednesday - and stay there.

"It's a huge game for us," said Neilson, whose side are three points behind the visitors from Ibrox but with a better goal difference.

"This season has been kind of stop-start games-wise.

"Now we're going into a period of playing Saturday - midweek - Saturday. It gives us a chance to get into second and to try and keep hold of it."

Hearts have not played Rangers since their Championship-winning campaign in 2014-15.

The Edinburgh side took seven points from four games against their Glasgow rivals, finishing 15 points clear of Rangers in third.

"It's been a while since we played them," said Neilson. "In the Championship, we had the upper hand on most occasions.

"There's still a few boys that were involved in those games and there is real confidence in the group. Every time we play at Tynecastle we expect to win the game.

"Rangers are a very good team and if you allow them a lot of possession they will hurt you.

"It's important that we try and stop that and the Tynecastle atmosphere will help us."

'Very difficult to catch Celtic'

Hearts have lost just once at home in the league this term, to leaders Celtic on the opening weekend.

Celtic are eight points ahead of Rangers, with two games in hand, and Neilson makes the leaders strong favourites to make it six titles in a row.

"It's going to be very difficult for anyone to catch them, with the size of squad they have and the quality of players they've got," he said.

"You always want to hunt them down as best you can but it's going to be tough.

"Our focus at the moment is trying to take over that second place. If we do that, we can try and build from there. We finished third last year and we want to push on again."

'January window key for Hearts'

Neilson revealed that he plans to add to his squad in January, while his is unsure if Scotland full-back Callum Paterson will see out his contract, which expires at the end of the season.

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson
Neilson aims to strengthen his squad over the winter

"It's going to be a really important window for us," he said.

"There are a few teams round about us at the moment that I expect to recruit. We have to recruit well if we are to compete and get second place.

"We have a stable environment at the club, which is important, and everyone is pushing in the same direction.

"We've discussed what I think we need for the team and I can strengthen. It's now a case of sourcing the players. I've got one that I hope to get done soon.

"That will be one part of it done and then we assess how January goes. The players have been doing well and we have guys like Paterson who will attract interest, so it depends what happens with him."

Walker can earn Scotland call

Paterson has scored six goals from defence this season, with Jamie Walker one ahead in the club's scoring charts.

And Neilson reckons the 23-year-old midfielder has what it takes to join Paterson in the Scotland set-up.

"Technically, he is really good," he said.

"His work-rate and defensive side of the game, which you need at international level, is definitely improving.

"He works back in quicker, his transition is better. That's what you need to play at that level. I'd like to think he can get in the squad eventually.

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