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Rangers have no fear of top-flight challenge: Captain Lee Wallace

By Gavin McCafferty

Rangers captain Lee Wallace is relaxed about Celtic counterpart Scott Brown's assessment of their title credentials - but stressed that the Ladbrokes Premiership newcomers could not be more ready for the top-flight.

Wallace will lead out a Rangers team in Scotland's top division for the first time in four years when they host Hamilton on Saturday but Brown cited Aberdeen and then Hearts as the main challengers to Celtic.

In response, Wallace said: "That's fine, this is the scenario we are going to be faced with. We are going to get that now we are back in the top-flight, but we are ready for the challenge.

"We are going to make sure we are highly competitive, that we are the best prepared we can be every match, and we'll see where it takes us."

Rangers have made nine signings since winning the Ladbrokes Championship and manager Mark Warburton is still looking for a defender and a striker before the transfer window shuts.

They warmed up for the league season with an impressive Betfred Cup showing, scoring 10 goals without reply to top their group ahead of Motherwell.

But the defensive frailties that were exposed by Hibernian in the Scottish Cup final were still evident when Burnley won 3-1 at Ibrox in a pre-season friendly on Saturday.

When asked if Rangers should be expected to mount an immediate title challenge, left-back Wallace said: "What you can expect is what Rangers always do. That's to be highly competitive, to make sure we go into every game being hard to beat, playing the right way and make sure we can be the best we can every single time.

"That comes from how we train, that comes from our working week.

"There's no doubt we have added well and no doubt we are training well, so preparations have been great and we'll certainly go into every game hoping to win and making sure we are highly competitive and try to win every game."

Warburton has had to gear his squad for the Premiership by bringing in players who are battle hardened and won't wilt under the pressure of being back in the big time.

To that end he signed Joey Barton and Niko Kranjcar, who both have extensive experience in the English Premier League, and Wallace revealed that the star duo have already made an impact.

"They have added an enormous amount, both on and off the pitch," said Wallace.

"There is undoubted quality on the football pitch - there is no getting away from that - but I think more on how they are interacting off the pitch, how they are dealing with the guys, getting used to how we work and the contributions and analysis they are making on the training pitch are second to none.

"I think that both, on and off the pitch, are certainly going to help our players, help us improve, help get us to where we want to be, so they are two fantastic additions along with the rest of the guys who have come into our squad and we are in really good shape right now."

Barton, in particular, is sure to come under the spotlight in Scotland and Wallace is in no doubt that the former Manchester City, Newcastle and QPR man will measure up.

"I think that in the three weeks that I've known him, I can already feel his passion, his energy and I can also see his quality," Wallace said.

"Day in, day out he demands high standards which is great because we are a demanding group. We are a very critical group, which is great and Joey is certainly going to add to that."

The Gers will kick off their return to the Premiership in front of a sold-out Ibrox against Hamilton on Saturday.

The club has announced that there are no more tickets available to home fans for the game which will see top-flight football return to Ibrox for the first time since 2012.

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