Craig Levein discusses Celtic and Rangers when assessing Scottish Premiership strength

Heart of Midlothian coach Liam Fox and Heart of Midlothian Director of Football Craig Levein

Mark Warburton's Glasgow Rangers side will be hoping to join those challenging the Hoops for the title.

Heart of Midlothian coach Liam Fox and Heart of Midlothian Director of Football Craig LeveinHearts director of football Craig Levein

Hearts' director of football Craig Levein believes that the Scottish Premiership is much stronger this season largely thanks to the changes involving the Old Firm, The Scottish Sun reports.

The Jambos enjoyed an excellent first campaign back in the top flight, finishing third and qualifying for the preliminary stages of the Europa League. 

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson holds the matchballHearts manager Robbie Neilson

And not only will their task of replicating their performance from last season be made more difficult by the demands of a possible run in the continental competition, but the return of Rangers to the highest level and Celtic's appointment of a new manager have been suggested by Levein as reasons why Robbie Neilson's men could struggle to repeat last year's achievements, though he's backed them to be stronger also.

"It's going to be tougher this season. I think that Brendan Rodgers coming is good for the league, it brings outside interest," he told The Scottish Sun.

"Rangers did well last year, and they have made some signings already.

"For everybody it's going to be a bit more exciting, probably a bit tougher than last season, but Hearts will be better than we were last year."

New Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers during the press conferenceCeltic manager Brendan Rodgers

If the club are unable to add anymore players to their squad before the new campaign, they will arguably be up against it trying to finish as high as third, especially if they do well in Europe.

Celtic were deemed by many to be under par last season but still won the league crown by a sizeable margin, so if Rodgers can get more out of his squad, they will once again be very difficult to catch.

Meanwhile, Mark Warburton's men proved in the Scottish Cup last year that they have the ability to outplay sides from the top flight even as a second tier team. And having signed several players with plenty of quality and experience, they will fancy their chances of moving straight back into the title picture.

Rangers manager Mark Warburton celebrates at the end of the matchRangers manager Mark Warburton

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch