KENNY Miller agrees with Scott Brown's assertion that Aberdeen will be Celtic's main rivals this season ... but insists those two sides will merely be battling it out for second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership table behind Rangers.

The verbal sparring has started early between the two Glasgow giants as they lock horns in the same division for the first time in five seasons and the veteran striker, a former Celtic and Scotland team-mate of Brown's, chipped in with his contribution as the minutes tick down to the campaign opener between Rangers and Hamilton at Ibrox on Saturday.

"He [Brown] is probably right ... for second place!" said Miller. "I don't think Broony even got the right scores for the games against Aberdeen. He said they [Aberdeen] came to Parkhead and took points off them but in fact they beat them twice. So I think you have to take what Broony said with a pinch of salt.

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"Let's be honest about it," the veteran striker added. "He knows the challenge that we're going to bring them this season. He knows that from the [Scottish Cup] semi-final last year where we won on penalties but we dominated that game. We were worthy winners and if we didn't win it in normal time it should have been extra time."

All joking aside, while off-field issues relating to kit suppliers Puma and Mike Ashley's Sports Direct continue to dog them, Rangers know a fast start is crucial. With Celtic facing early-season showdowns against both Hearts and Aberdeen, and taking a weekend off to play a friendly against Inter Milan in Limerick, the Ibrox side sense the potential to rack up an early advantage by the time they travel across the city for the first Old Firm match of the season on September 10. They get the first chance to put points on the board at home to Hamilton on Saturday and are determined to hit the ground running.

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“Listen it’s something we have definitely looked at," said Miller. "There is an opportunity there to get your nose in front straight away, although you try not to look to far ahead. It’s a huge game for us on Saturday and if we can get off to a good start we are looking to get off to then there is a real possibility we can go into that game ahead.HeraldScotland: Rangers striker Kenny Miller

“I think it’s crucial we start well, not just to make a statement that we are back in the top league and we are going to be competitive, but for the sake of this team building confidence like we did last year. We won 11 games in a row and the belief within the group went through the roof. You always want to make a good start to the season but when you’re at home and you want to win the league then you’re going to have win these games."

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Miller conceded that there was a danger in dismissing teams like Aberdeen and Hearts from title calculations. "Being honest, would any Rangers team come up and – no matter what situation Celtic are in – say they are going to be happy to finish second?" said Miller. "It’s not going to happen, whether it's realistic or unrealistic. The fact of the matter is we are in a place where we are definitely good enough to challenge.

"We know about Broony’s comments and there are other good teams in this league," he added. "Aberdeen and Hearts are good sides. Motherwell have finished second or third in recent years. They will trouble teams. So there are other good sides in the league who will take points off of us and points off other sides as well. As much as the focus is going to be on Rangers and Celtic, because history tells you that is going to be first and second, there are other teams who will have a say in it, that’s for sure. Reading what Broony said, and what I’m saying, can only fire them on to want to prove a point."

Mark Warburton, who said there had been no contact between the club and Philippe Senderos, the experienced defensive free agent whose last club was Grasshoppers of Zurich, laughed off the furore over Brown's comments but said they would just have to agree to disagree.

"I’ve only ever met Scott once," said Warburton. "He’s a very experienced pro, an international player, and he gave his opinion. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. My opinion would be very different to Scott’s, but that’s the beauty of the game. I’ve got no problem with that at all. But if it takes a Scott Brown to make a comment to stir our players up then we’ve got a problem. Hopefully we’re beyond that."