The statement Hearts aim to make against Rangers to enhance a special season at Tynecastle

Defender Stephen Kingsley explains the excitement within the camp at Riccarton

Third place in the Premiership is Hearts' to lose given their 14-point advantage. They are favourites to beat Morton and reach Hampden Park for the Scottish Cup semi-finals. It is shaping up to be a memorable season down in Gorgie, but excitement could reach an entirely different level depending on results over the next week.

Rangers away followed by Hibs and Celtic at home are the next three entries on Hearts' fixture list before that cup quarter-final at Cappielow Park. A demanding eight-day period starts tomorrow at Ibrox, where the visitors will aim to extend a phenomenal run of 12 games without defeat that includes 11 victories. Having won at Celtic Park to begin that 12-game sequence in December, Hearts know what kind of statement they can make by also beating Rangers in Glasgow.

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"It would be huge, obviously. If you look at where we were at the beginning of the season to where we are now, we have come on leaps and bounds," explained defender Stephen Kingsley. "From a mental point of view, to go to Ibrox and get a result is what everyone tries to do. They have been in great form as well as us. We know it is going to be a tough task but it would be massive if we could go and get a result. I think we can do it. That would lead us in nicely to the Hibs and Celtic games - tails will be up and confidence flowing through the boys."

There are a number of similarities for away sides visiting Ibrox and Celtic Park. "I think so. Your gameplan might change but your targets are the same," agreed Kingsley. "You want to go and be tough to beat, be on the right side of the small margins and take it one stage at a time. I feel if we do that we have every chance. We have been doing well defensively, we have been scoring goals. So we’ll understand the challenge but focus on ourselves."

Rangers are the Premiership's form team with only one defeat in 26 games since manager Philippe Clement took charge last October. They moved two points clear of Celtic at the top of the league last weekend and must now cope with demand from supporters to stay there.

"They have this title challenge on with Celtic now and they’ve done very well to get their noses in front from where they were [eight points behind]," Kingsley pointed out. "So the place will be bouncing. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, and it’s just a really exciting game.It’s one we’re all looking forward to and rightly so. We’re doing well, they’re doing well, these are the games you want to play in, aren’t they?

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"It’s an occasion that has been coming up. We have had the games prior that we really needed to focus on because with the games in front of you, you need to set yourself up to kick on. We’ve given ourselves a great opportunity. We need to take it and enjoy it."

Hearts will know a lot more about how their season is likely to pan out after the next three matches. They have the potential to apply real pressure on the top two if results go their way. "It is an exciting time to be at the club, but I think that is great credit to us as players but the staff and everybody involved," said Kingsley.

"We were talking about it, it's been a long season, we had a hard start at the beginning, we've worked very hard at everything to have us in this position we are in now. Yeah, it is exciting times. Everybody will say you can only focus on the next game and it's all we have done up to this point. Looking too far ahead is when you can slip up. We've shown that we have the right mentality in the last few games to just deal with the next game. It is going to be tough but it's a big week.

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"We see it for what it is, an opportunity to kick on. We've worked hard to be the position we are in. What an opportunity it is this week - away to Ibrox, then the derby on the Wednesday and then home to Celtic. What a chance you have got to go and continue that good form and try to go and get something. We believe we are good enough to do it. We always believe we are good enough to go and get something but everyone is starting to see we've got that confidence to go and genuinely do it."

Trust is gradually growing at Riccarton that a monumental few weeks could lie ahead for all connected with Hearts. "To be honest, we've had that belief throughout the whole season: 'If we get it right we are going to kick on and we are going to achieve the target we set at the start of the season.' Nothing really changes from now.

"You look at the table and yeah, it looks like that. You are going to start looking up rather than behind you but as players you can't really get embroiled in that. You've just got to think: 'What an opportunity this week is.' Don't think anything after that. What an opportunity it is on Saturday, we'll get through that, hopefully we will have another positive result. Then we'll look at Hibs and Celtic, re-evaluate and go again."

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