Brandon Barker insists Hibs are still in the thick of the battle for second place in the Premiership despite slipping six points adrift of both Aberdeen and Rangers this week.
This trio of clubs have spent much of the past few months vying for the runners-up spot behind champions-elect Celtic. However, a return of just one point from the past two games at home to both of the two big Glasgow clubs has left Hibs looking slightly detached from the pack.
Barker is adamant, however, they remain a match for both Aberdeen and Rangers and shouldn’t be counted out of the equation. “I am not going to sit here and say we are the second best team, but we are definitely toe to toe with the other two,” the winger said ahead of tomorrow’s crucial lunchtime showdown at Pittodrie. “Obviously Celtic are a really strong team who are competing in Europe but the other two teams, every time we have played them, we have shown we can go toe to toe with them. We are a confident bunch of players. We just need that slice of luck and hopefully things will be looking up.”
Barker insists everyone at Hibs still believes they are capable of claiming second spot. “Definitely,” said the on-loan Manchester City player. “The manager (Neil Lennon) believes in us. You can see that from the way he talks about us, and talks to us. He definitely believes we can finish second. I’m not going to say we will finish second – that would be stupid of me. But the performances show when we play the big teams there has not been a game where we have been dominated.
“There were maybe parts in the Celtic game where we were dominated by a superior team but against the other two who we are fighting with for second place I do not see much in it, especially against Aberdeen who we really dominated and against Rangers, who we have dominated again. We have just come up from the Championship but we don’t just want to fill places, we want to challenge for European places.”
A win at Pittodrie would reduce the deficit on Aberdeen – runners-up in each of the previous three seasons – to three points. “It’s a massive game if we do want to compete for second,” Barker said. “December is such a tough month and we have to take points from Aberdeen, especially after losing in midweek. It is a must-win game in my opinion so hopefully we will go there and do the business.”
Barker twice hit the woodwork during a scintillating second-half display as a substitute against Rangers on Wednesday. The 21-year-old is pleased with the way his season-long loan is panning out.
“Yes, definitely,” he said. “I was obviously a bit disappointed not to start against Rangers because I took a knock in the Sunday game but I came on and I thought I did alright. I am loving my time here. I am loving the people I work with. I feel right at home and hopefully I can stay for as long as possible.”