Challenging games ahead

Hearts have the chance to show just how real their title ambitions are when they meet Rangers on Saturday. Manager Jim Jefferies insists his side have nothing to lose after a run of nine wins in the last 10 SPL games which suggests his side could challenge Rangers and Celtic at the top of the league. After the home game with Rangers, Hearts take on Celtic away, St Johnstone at home and Rangers away in games which are likely to determine whether they have the ability and strength in depth to keep the pressure on the Old Firm. Jefferies said: "Nobody's shouting in here about what we're trying to do; we'll cross the line on a matchday and do our talking there. After this run of games, the next three, four, five games, we'll have a clearer indication if we can put in a challenge. The chance is there now and we've got to try and grab that chance. Rangers and Celtic, they don't make it easy. But if it's down to belief and confidence and spirit, we've shown we've got that and we need to do that on Saturday and play at our very best."

Hearts most recent loss in the SPL was against Kilmarnock at the end of October, but their run of wins was spoilt when they were beaten 1-0 by St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup last week. However, a 2-1 midweek win at fourth-placed Kilmarnock consolidated Hearts position in third place, but Jefferies is looking to take further points in the coming days. He added: "We deserve to be there and 11 points gives us a bit of a cushion going into these games. When we're at the top of our game, we'll give anybody a game. The players should have the belief and they've given themselves an opportunity. The good thing about it is they can go into it with no pressure because they've built up a nice wee cushion for the team chasing for third place. It's a good position to be in, but we're not guaranteed anything. If we can beat the big two when they come round, we'll only get closer to them."

Kevin Kyle (groin) and Rudi Skacel (calf) have been out of action recently and remain doubtful for tomorrow's game. Jefferies wants them to come through training unscathed to be considered for selection. Jefferies said: "They could make it but I'm not 100% sure about that yet. I'll stress to them, though, that they will be letting the team down if they are not 100% fit as we have a good, strong squad with players on the bench busting a gut to play."

The Hearts boss does not believe the likely absence of Kenny Miller will impact too greatly on Rangers, with the striker moving to Bursaspor in Turkey. Jefferies said: "I think Kenny Miller going would weaken any team, but Kenny Miller doesn't do it all on his own for Rangers. We know we've got a tough game, we just want to make sure Rangers come to Tynecastle and we give them a really tough match."