Steven Gerrard claims it isn’t a two-horse race for this season’s Premiership title.
The Rangers manager knows most people consider it’s a straight battle between his side and Celtic, as it normally is, to be crowned champions.
It has been even more focused on the Glasgow clubs since kick-off because the Parkhead men are going for 10-in-a-row.
But Aberdeen have shown increasing resilience and have won five of their last six league matches.
They are currently just behind Celtic and go to Ibrox today having played two games fewer than Rangers.
Gerrard said: “I’m sure in the Aberdeen and Hibs camps they’ll welcome all the spotlight being on the Old Firm.
“They can go about their business quietly, find a level and try to stay with us for as long as they can.
“They’re both good teams, who have started the season extremely well.
“We certainly won’t be writing anyone off at this stage.
“We don’t see it as a one, two or three-horse race. That would be really disrespectful.
“There’s too much football, and too many big games, to be played.
“It’s a huge weekend in terms of the table. There are big points to play for.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved in this race, and we’re looking forward to the challenges.”
Rangers were comfortable in beating Aberdeen 1-0 on the first day of the campaign, but the Dons are now looking a more-formidable outfit.
Gerrard added: “It’ll be a different challenge against Aberdeen today because they’ll have different personnel and will be in a different place off the back of a strong run of form.
“They’ve reacted really well to the defeat from us on the opening day.
“They had some issues off the pitch at the time, but Derek has got them firing again. They’re in a better place.
“We always expect a tough, strong challenge from Aberdeen.”
The Dons will be without Ross McCrorie for today’s high-noon clash.
He’s on loan from Rangers, and wasn’t able to play against his parent club even before he was caught up in the Scotland Under-21 controversy.
Gerrard maintains he would have been quite happy to keep the midfielder.
He said: “We didn’t want him to leave the building. The decision was made by Ross. He wanted to go and play regular football.
“As a manager, that’s a difficult position to be in because you want to respect the player’s ambition and what he wants.
“You have to be selfish at times and stop that from happening, but we had to respect Ross’s decision to go play regular football.
“It was a decision we made reluctantly.
“I was open to Ross staying about. He is a good player, so it’s no surprise he has gone to Aberdeen and hit the ground running.
“But the reality is that Ross was finding it hard to break in above the players we have brought to the club.
“Steven Davis has more than 100 international caps, and Ryan Jack is in the form of his life.”
Gerrard ensured that McCrorie wouldn’t face his old team this season by having the deal as an initial loan.
He said: “From me at the time, I said if it’s happening, it’ll happen on my terms and Rangers’ terms.
“It doesn’t make sense to do deals that support rivals and opposition players.”
Gerrard is delighted with the form of 28-year-old ex-Don, Ryan Jack, and sees him as a mainstay of the Rangers side for many years to come.
He added: “We want Ryan here for the long term. We are happy and delighted to have him.
‘When we came in, we inherited a good player, without a doubt.
“Aberdeen had done a real good job with Ryan in terms of his development and giving him the opportunity to play at the top level. He obviously became a leader.
“So there is coaching prior to us that deserves a lot of credit in his development.
“He does everything right at the gym, he eats well and he trains and prepares every single day for the game at the weekend or midweek.
“It’s no surprise that Ryan finds that level of consistency because he does everything right.
“We want as many home-grown players as possible involved in our squad.
“But I think everyone will respect the fact that, first and foremost, they have to be good enough.
“We are under pressure here to deliver results at one of the world’s biggest clubs.
“But if we can keep good Scottish players around us, I welcome that, for sure.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe