Steven Gerrard's Rangers not certainties for second - Hibs' Neil Lennon

By Brian McLauchlinBBC Scotland
Steven Gerrard in Liverpool colours faces up to Celtic's Neil Lennon
Steven Gerrard and Neil Lennon came face-to-face as players when Liverpool took on Celtic

Steven Gerrard's Rangers being the closest challengers to Celtic this season is not a foregone conclusion, says Hibs head coach Neil Lennon.

Rangers are unbeaten under ex-Liverpool captain Gerrard, but Lennon believes Aberdeen, Hearts, and his own side can fight for second place behind Celtic.

"I think it's too early to say that Celtic and Rangers will be the top two teams," Lennon said.

"I don't believe in the hype and a lot of hysteria around big clubs."

Rangers, who have gone nine games without defeat, have progressed to the Europa League play-off stage, while Aberdeen and Hibs fell short.

However, the Dons have finished runners-up behind Celtic for the last four seasons - the last two ahead of Rangers.

Hibs ran them both close for the runners-up spot last season, and Hearts lead this season's early standings.

"I still think Celtic will win the league," Lennon said. "Whether the gap gets closer remains to be seen.

"As for second place, you would have to say Rangers are firm favourites - there is obviously a significant improvement at Rangers.

"For me, it wasn't that major a job to do on the back of what wasn't a great season last year and they are investing, which is something the likes of ourselves, Hearts and Aberdeen can't do."

Hibs achieved a record Premiership points total in finishing fourth last season and Lennon is unsure if his side can replicate that, especially after having sold influential midfielder John McGinn to Aston Villa.

"I'm not sure we will amass as many points this season, but I could be wrong. We have to factor in we have lost some good players."

'Hibs look every bit as potent' - McInnes

Hibs host Aberdeen in the Premiership on Saturday, and Dons boss Derek McInnes believes the Leith outfit "will be up there again" in the battle for the runners-up spot.

"Hibs are similar to ourselves last year, when we had to deal with a lot of changes and key players moving on," McInnes said.

"You can't always replace like for like, as I've found from my own experience, but Neil's team look every bit as potent this season.

"I've watched them a few times recently and they look a very good side. That is testament to the manager and the amount of good players they had there already. They will be up there again this season.

"We go there with high expectations and confidence after last week's performance [a 4-0 win over St Mirren] but know we are going to have to play well to get anything from the game."

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