HIBERNIAN head coach Neil Lennon is refusing to set targets for his Ladbrokes Premiership newcomers in what he branded a “sexier” top flight.

Hibs will unfurl the Championship flag at Easter Road today before facing Partick Thistle, and Lennon was not making any bold predictions before taking on a side that finished in the top six last season.

Lennon claimed his side were the “second-best team in the country” in the immediate aftermath of their William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Aberdeen in April. A statement that brought howls of derision from the northeast – not to mention in Govan.

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But he was more circumspect as Hibs prepare to end their three-year exile from Scotland’s top division.

The former Celtic boss said: “I think the league’s a lot sexier now than it was a couple of years ago. What I mean by that, there’s big clubs back in and they’re spending a bit of money again.

“There’s a bracket. You’ve got Celtic and then for me the next group is Aberdeen and Rangers. All right, Aberdeen have lost a few players but they have recruited really well. Rangers have backed their manager and spent some money.

“And then the rest of us are fighting it out for fourth, fifth, sixth and hopefully avoiding relegation.”

Hibs signed six internationals in the summer – Anthony Stokes this week joining Steven Whittaker, Ofir Marciano, Efe Ambrose and Lithuanian pair Deivydas Matulevicius and Vykintas Slivka – as well as former Dundee United forward Simon Murray and boyhood Hibs fan Danny Swanson, who was the key creative force behind Tommy Wright’s fourth-placed St Johnstone last season.

But Lennon said: “I’m not going to make any predictions or targets. I’d like to think we could have a good season but I think it’s folly to say we are going to be top six or top four.

“We can’t compete with Rangers financially for a start. They are spending a few million here and there.

“And Aberdeen sold Jonny (Hayes) and brought in good players. They have had a real structure under Derek (McInnes) for a few years where a few have gone out and a few have come in and they seem to improve every year. They are a strong outfit and they will be there or thereabouts.

“We want to be in amongst it but we have to earn the right to do that.”

Hibs consistently reached the latter stages of cup competitions during their three years in the Championship and a feelgood factor remains from their 2016 Scottish Cup triumph.

But Lennon said: “You have to temper the anticipation. We could go out on Saturday and easily get beat. You don’t want to lose that feelgood factor very early but it can happen.

“We’re at home and we want to take the game to Partick Thistle, who are an excellent side, at every opportunity we can. But it may take us a few games to find our feet at this level again.

“But I’m pretty confident with the quality and experience of player I have that it won’t take long.”