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Robbie Neilson targets second-place finish for Hearts
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has set his sights on boosting their second-place prospects on and off the pitch ahead of the visit of Rangers.
Hearts will leapfrog Rangers into second spot in the Ladbrokes Premiership if they beat the Ibrox club on Wednesday night in their first meeting since the pair were in the Championship.
And Neilson is also working on tying up an early January signing to further enhance his team's prospects of finishing above Rangers and Aberdeen.
"It's a huge game for us," Neilson said of the Tynecastle clash. "It's been a while since we played them. When we were in the Championship we had the upper hand on most occasions and we hope to do that again on Wednesday night. I think we've got a really good squad here that can go and win the game.
"There are still a few boys in the squad that were involved in those games. We have real confidence in the group and the guys who have come in since then, every time we play at Tynecastle they expect to win the game. So the confidence is there.
"They (Rangers) are a very good footballing team. If you allow them to have a lot of possesion, they will hurt you. So it's important that we try and stop that, and I think the atmosphere at Tynecastle will help us do that."
A 3-0 victory over Motherwell on Saturday ended a run of four games without a win for Hearts and gave them the chance to move into second.
"There is a motivation there to do that," said Neilson, who confirmed right-back Callum Paterson would be fit to face Rangers after suffering a cut and swollen eye against Motherwell.
"It would be great for us. We have had a stop-start season games-wise and now we are coming to a period where we play Saturday-Saturday and midweek. It gives us that opportunity, if we can get into second, to keep ahold of it."
When asked whether he would be disappointed not to finish above Rangers, Neilson said: "We want to finish as high as we can, we want to finish in second place, so that probably answers your question. We finished third last season and we want to push again. That means either similar or getting second place. My drive is to try and get that second position."
Rangers manager Mark Warburton insists Neilson's possible move to MK Dons will have no impact on their clash at Tynecastle.
The 36-year-old Gorgie boss is reportedly on his way south for talks with the English Football League club who confirmed on Monday that they made an official approach.
It looks like Neilson, who played under Warburton at Brentford, could be in charge of the Edinburgh side for the last time against the Light Blues.
However, the Gers boss believes the Hearts players will not lose focus as they look for the win that will take them above the Ibrox side and Aberdeen into second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
He said: "All I know is I had Robbie at Brentford, he was a top professional as a player, he is a very talented manager and he has a very big future in the game.
"I like him enormously. I am very impressed with Robbie and he has a very bright career ahead I am sure but I am only focused on Rangers and he will deal with what he has to deal with.
"It doesn't (impact), it is about your relationship with the players and I am sure Robbie has a very strong relationship.
"The most important people are the players.
"We do what we do in our capacity but at the end of the day it is about the players.
"It is an important game tomorrow night and I am sure their focus will be as equally as strong as ours.
"It doesn't affect our preparation, we go there and respect them but it is just about Rangers from our perspective."