The first Edinburgh Derby in 9 months sees Hibs play host to Hearts in a match eagerly anticipated by both sets of supporters.
Hibees head into the game as slight favourites and recent form would seem to indicate the bookies have called it right with the Jambo’s last two outings having seen them defeated by Dundee United and Kilmarnock, shipping 5 and scoring only 1.
Hibs on the other hand have picked up after a slightly disappointing start and only a home reverse against Rangers has prevented them taking maximum points from their last 4 games.
Boss Mixu Paatelainen scored a hat-trick against Hearts nearly 8 years to the very day in his first spell at Easter Road and he’ll be hoping homegrown Hibbies such as Colin Nish, Ian Murray and Derek Riordan can spur his side to victory.
Certainly the Hibs gaffer has picked out the three Edinburgh lads as key to his selection for the game insisting he’d rather have locals on the park than foreigners.
‘You want local boys in your side – I certainly do,’ said Paatelainen.
‘You don’t want the foreign legion. They don’t have that passion. It’s great we have boys in the team who are Hibs supporters.
‘Obviously the game means everything to them. It does to all the players, but they know what it’s all about.
‘Ability doesn’t come into it. It’s the psychology and mentality of the players.’
Paatelainen admitted the players have had an added edge in training this week but insists the lead up to the Derby has been no different to any other game.
‘It’s been a normal training week. The application is always there.
‘Maybe they feel a bit more excited, but we’ve prepared as we did against Aberdeen, for example, in our last game. Nothing changes.
‘I don’t treat it in any other way. If you do something else, maybe the players will get a little bit edgy or nervous.
‘It’s very important that the players don’t get carried away. You must stay calm and make sure you concentrate on the game only, and to be honest you don’t realise the crowd. You focus on your passes and your runs and what you have to do.
‘We want to take away their aces, if you like, their better players, and try and stop them playing and being influential for them. It’s important we realise the players in their ranks who make them tick, and if we can stop one or two of them we’re halfway there. On the other hand we want to use our strong points.’
‘As soon as the match starts it’s the ones who perform on the day who win the game, simple as that. You need a strong mentality, as always.
‘If we have enough strong characters we do well. If we have players who fall by the wayside when the supporters start screaming and the crunching tackles start flying, we get beat.’
Hibs Team News:
Hibs are without current player of the year Chris Hogg who has been ruled out once more with an eye problem.
Long term absentee Kevin McCann continues his recovery and will again miss out.
Player to watch: Derek Riordan
‘Deeks’ will be up for this game more than any other in his career as he looks to continue his renaissance at Hibs.
The lifelong Hibby positively despises Hearts and will aim to continue his decent scoring record against them.
What price him being firt goalscorer I wonder?
Hearts Team News:
Andy Driver looks set to return for the visitors while Adrian Mrowiec, David Cesnauskis and David Obua are ruled out.
Player to watch: Andy Driver
If fully fit Driver could pose the Hibs back four some problems whith his tricky wing play although many Jambo’s feel he may not be match fit.
Match Facts & Stats
Honours were even in the three clashes last season with each side claiming a one goal victory.
The match at Easter Road ended one each with Christian Nade cancelling out a Christoph Berra OG.
It has to be a home win.
Hibs would appear to have too much firepower for a Hearts side which struggles to score goals.
Next time out Hibs face the daunting trip to Celtic Park.
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