Marvin Bartley believes Hibs possess a stronger squad than Rangers and is confident they can prove it by winning the Championship title.
The Easter Road side were widely written off when they trailed Mark Warburton’s team by 11 points just a month ago, with bookmakers pricing them up at a huge 20/1 to finish first in Scotland’s second tier.
However, after a run of 12 wins in 13 matches in all competitions and six consecutive league victories, rampant Hibs can close to within two points of the table-topping Ibrox side if they beat Livingston at Easter Road tonight.
Midfielder Bartley insists he is not surprised at how things have panned out because he sensed his team were emerging as a force to be reckoned with after overcoming a slack start to the season.
“I think we’ve got the best squad in this league,” he told the Evening News. “I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but that’s a belief that comes from training and playing with these boys every week. We’ve also got really good strength in numbers. I believe we can win every game and it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that if we win every game, then we win the league.
“If we get it down to two points, it would probably be a bigger boost for other people than it would for us in the dressing-room. We’ve always known that we’ve got the quality to beat Rangers and to close the gap. Again, I don’t want to sound arrogant, but we expected to close the gap on them.
“It’s no great surprise to us in the dressing-room that we’ve put ourselves in a position to go within two points of Rangers because we believe in the quality we have here, as individuals and as a squad. First and foremost, we have to make sure we beat Livingston, but I’m certainly not surprised that we’ve closed the gap.”
Five weeks ago, Hibs striker James Keatings gave a defiant interview in which he dismissed the notion that Rangers had the title all but wrapped up. Bartley was in full agreement.
“We all agreed with Keats when he said the title wasn’t over,” he said. “The only people that would have said the title race was over were probably Rangers supporters or people who wanted Rangers to win the league. I’d be disappointed if any Hibs fans felt the title was over because there’s a lot of football still to play and I’ve never seen a team win a title in November. People can write us off at their peril.”
Hibs are set to welcome midfielder Dylan McGeouch back into the squad after injury, while forward Henri Anier is expected to be on the bench for the first time since arriving at the club two-and-a-half months ago. Defender Paul Hanlon could be rested in order to shake off a niggling injury.