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 Hibs view, by Gregor Kerr.
If you asked the question about a month ago, particularly to fans on the green side of the city, who would win, then the likely answer would have been Hibs. With Hearts without a manager and struggling for results, Hibs starting Premiership life with a swagger and flair that has been missing for some time, both club appeared to be setting off in different directions. Fast forward a month later, and the Jambos have managed to climb above their rivals, not transformed, but rejuvenated.
The Craig Levein factor cannot be ignored but while Hearts go into the meeting filled with more confidence than they have had for some time, it can’t be forgotten how well their city rivals have dominated the Edinburgh derby in recent years. The Hibees remain unbeaten in the previous seven clashes, winning three of those, all at Easter Road. In the previous derby back in February, Neil Lennon’s side dominated Hearts in a manner unseen in this fixture for some time, cruising to a 3-1 victory which could have seen a far greater gulf in scoreline. This defeat still stings for many Jambos, and they will be out to avenge that defeat now that they have been freed from the shackles of former manager Ian Cathro.
While Hibs have been able to replicate that sort of performance on numerous occasions this season, they have often not translated into victories. Dominant performances against the likes of St Johnstone and Celtic, amongst others, have only resulting in draws, leaving fans with a feeling that their league position of seventh doesn’t reflect the team’s quality, and wondering where they would be if their chances had been converted.
One factor which may play a significant part in this game is Hibernian’s Saturday meeting with Scottish champions Celtic in the Betfred Cup semi-finals. In a high-paced, thrilling match, the Hibees were defeated 4-2, putting all their energy into a spirited second-half display which brought both of their goals. They can be proud of their performance at the national stadium, but the mental and physical efforts of Lennon’s side must have surely taken a toll on the players, and asking them to recover in time for such a huge match, in a sell-out crowd under the floodlights is a big ask. In recent years Hibs have struggled to compete on all fronts when challenged with multiple games a week, and few come with higher importance than these two.
Promisingly, the Leith side often raise their game when the level of opposition increases. Performances against Rangers and Celtic this season have been amongst their finest, displaying ruthlessness in front of goal and a dominance in the midfield. The same can be said for last season, when Hibs picked up wins away to Brondby, Hearts and Dundee United, whilst pushing Aberdeen all the way in the Scottish Cup semi-final. Neil Lennon’s side absolutely relish the big occasions.
The derby will be incredibly difficult to predict, with margins between the two sides very minimal. We are guaranteed, however, noise, fireworks, and entertainment, as the eyes of the capital lock firmly on Leith this Tuesday night.