As Edinburgh prepares to welcome the first top-flight derby clash since 2014, both sides go into Tuesday’s clash rightfully confident of a win. With Hearts somewhat revived, yet inconsistent under new manager Craig Levein, and Hibs scoring goals, but failing to keep them out at the other end, picking a winner is a 50/50 decision. Here’s the Hearts view, by John Menzies.
Hearts come into tonight’s derby match full of belief after Saturday’s scrappy 1-0 victory over St Johnstone at Murrayfield. The Jambos have won their last two games, having won 2-1 away at Ross County the previous week, and currently sit fifth in the SPFL Premiership table, two points and two places ahead of tonight’s opponents, albeit having played a game more.
Since head coach Craig Levein was appointed at the end of August, the Tynecastle Park side have won three and drawn two, with a solitary defeat courtesy of a last-minute winner away at Dundee. And with the return to form of the likes of Jamie Walker, Esmael Goncalves and Kyle Lafferty, Hearts should cause problems for a Hibs defence that hasn’t been particularly solid since the club returned to the top flight of Scottish football. Lafferty got the winner on Saturday against the Saints, in turn scoring his eighth goal of the campaign. The Northern Irish striker’s presence will prove challenging for a Hibees back line that has leaked 11 goals in their last six matches.
One of the reasons that there has been an upturn in form has been the defence. Cathro’s team leaked goals left, right and centre, particularly towards the end of last season, but Levein has implemented an apparent state of stability. One of the main reasons the club has significantly improved defensively is through the Berra-Souttar partnership at the centre of defence. The combination of youth and experience has complimented each other impressively, with Souttar’s game since going to another level – talk of a Scotland call-up have come around. Hearts have conceded only five times in Levein’s first six matches. However, they have only kept two clean sheets – against Aberdeen and St Johnstone.
Levein has instilled a fight and willingness that was lacking for the vast majority of predecessor Ian Cathro’s tenure. With the likes of Ross Callachan, Michael Smith and Lafferty joining the club in the summer, along with Christophe Berra rejoining his boyhood heroes, Hearts have players that will give everything for the jersey, which is exactly what is needed in a derby match. The team’s lack of hunger was apparent in the last meeting between the two teams, but that shouldn’t be a problem this time around.