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St Johnstone believe we can upset Rangers again despite January improvements: Tommy Wright

St Johnstone v Rangers, Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership, McDiarmid Park, Tonight, 7.45pm

By Ronnie Esplin

Rangers boss Graeme Murty says his men have improved since St Johnstone won at Ibrox in December, but Saints manager Tommy Wright remains confident ahead of tonight's Ladbrokes Premiership clash in Perth.

The Govan club used the January transfer window to bring in Brighton's Jamie Murphy, Norwich's Russell Martin, Nottingham Forest striker Jason Cummings and QPR midfielder Sean Goss on loan, while Greg Docherty was bought from Hamilton for a fee of over £675,000.

The Light Blues' 2-0 win over Hearts at Ibrox on Saturday means Murty's side have lost just once in their last 10 games.

However, following a goalless draw at Celtic Park in their previous outing, St Johnstone beat bottom side Ross County 2-0 on Saturday for their first home win in five months, which encourages Wright.

"(Rangers) are in a different place at the minute," said the Ulsterman. "They have signed different players, but the encouragement should be how well we have played in the last couple of games."

Looking back to his side's 3-1 win at Ibrox, Wright said: "That game was back in December, but there is nobody in this league that we are ever frightened of.

"We always go into games believing we can win and that's the case on Tuesday.

"They are a big club, they can spend money. It is easy at a big club when you need to change things, you just go out and spend money and the proof will be in whether they can win the (Scottish) Cup, put pressure on Celtic.

"But you could argue that the recruitment in January was better than the recruitment in the summer for them."

Wright spoke of the significance of the win over the struggling Staggies which took the McDiarmid Park club into eighth place.

He said: "It was important that we built on the performance at Celtic, important that we stopped the poor run we have had at home and who we were playing, opening up a nine-point gap (over County) with two games in hand.

"It was also important that we stayed in touch with Motherwell, with two games in hand and five points behind.

"I am pleased that the players went out and controlled the game and we have to try and build on that and go on a run."

Meanwhile, Ibrox boss Murty says he will do all he can to help Bruno Alves fulfil his World Cup dream - but warned the Portugal star he must earn his recall.

Euro 2016 winner Alves has not featured for Gers since damaging a calf in December's Old Firm showdown at Celtic Park.

While the 36-year-old centre-back has declared himself fit, he was left on the bench for Saturday's 2-0 win over Hearts as Murty paired Martin and David Bates at the heart of his back-four.

The Gers manager says he is determined to help him play his part alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at this summer's World Cup in Russia, but Murty also admits it would be unfair for him to drop his current defensive duo while they are performing so well.

"Everyone in the squad has to be patient," said Murty. "Everyone has to bring positive energy to the group and Bruno has done that. He trains fantastically well. He's a consummate professional and he understands, because of his experience, that we have to pick a team to win the game and that's all it is.

"Bruno's a top performer playing for the European champions and wants to be involved in as many games as possible (for Rangers) to make sure at the end of the season he is fit and ready to go."

Gers can open up a six-point gap on Aberdeen if they beat St Johnstone tonight but Murty says his side will have to defend better than they did when allowing Wright's team to claim a 3-1 Ibrox win two months ago.

He said: "I've just shown the boys the goals we conceded last time so we know where they produce a threat from.

"The players have been fully briefed on what kind of threat we'll face, and we have to be ready to see that out."

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