Hibs look set to welcome back influential midfielder John McGinn for Friday’s Scottish Championship clash with Dundee United and hope to be further boosted by the return of Israeli goalkeeper Ofir Marciano.
Scotland cap McGinn has missed five games after having an operation on his ankle but did take part in the pre match warm up against Falkirk on Hogmanay and has suffered no setbacks in training following the 2-1 victory over the Bairns.
McGinn however may be forced into accepting a role on the bench with his lack of match practice a slight concern for such a huge match.
The game itself is crucial as the race for automatic promotion hots up with the two sides having swapped places over the past few weeks, firstly with United leapfrogging the Hibees after a disappointing home draw with Raith Rovers but the Tannadice outfit’s dismal defeat against Dumbarton at the same time as Neil Lennon’s side were defeating Falkirk saw Hibs regain the title initiative and sit a point clear at the top of the table.
Having faced each other twice already this season (1-1 at Easter Road, 1-0 Utd at Tannadice) it’s clear there is little between the sides although Hibs have been the dominant side in both clashes with Ray McKinnon’s side offering little threat in the encounters, scoring with their only worthwhile attempt on goal on each occasion.
The top of the table clash sees a complete sell out in the home stands whilst United will be backed by a travelling support in excess of 2000 despite the match being screened live on BBC Alba
Hibs manager Neil Lennon: “There are no Premiership matches so there is a little bit more interest in this game. It will be tremendous to have so many fans in the stadium. Hopefully, our players can respond positively to that and make the most of home advantage. We play pretty well at home, we dominate most of the ball and we hope we can do the same and create plenty of chances.
“I`m hoping we can kick on, find a level of consistency and wins. McGinn and Fyvie aren`t far away and they have been a big miss for us the way they were playing early on in the season. The goalkeeper isn`t far away either, so to have those three back it could be like having three new signings.
“Obviously, tonight is first against second. If we win, we know what`s at stake – we are four points clear. If we draw we`re still top. If we lose, we are two points behind. So the gap is minimal either way but I think it is important psychologically for us to put in a good performance and win the game.
Ray McKinnon, Dundee United boss: “At the end of the day, you can only play 11 at a time and we`ve got a decent 11.
“We`ll certainly be able to put 11 quality players on the field to match their 11. That`s the important thing.”
Hibernian Team News:
Hibs could be strengthened by the return of up to 3 players with John McGinn, Fraser Fyvie and Ofir Marciano whilst Chris Humphrey, signed on the opening day of the transfer window is also in contention for a starting role.
Player to watch: Kris Commons
Commons could be the key to unlocking a United defence which has proved almost impenetrable during their recent run of good form having conceded only 3 time in ten games.
On his day Commons can be unplayable and there were signs against Falkirk that he was returning to full match fitness alongside regaining form.
Dundee Utd Team News:
United have injury doubts over top scorer Tony Andreu and Lewis Toshney with the latter having suffered a broken toe during Saturday’s defeat but both are likely to recover in time for the visit to Easter Road as they aim to recover from their first loss in 15 league outings.
Player to watch: Simon Murray
The diminutive forward is always a threat with constant movement and pace although he may well be kept on the bench for this encounter to be utilised as a super sub should United require him.
Match Facts & Stats
Hibs have failed to beat the Terrors within 90 minutes in the last four encounters although last season’s victory, on penalties, in the Scottish Cup semi final saw a new Easter Road legend born in the shape of Irish goalkeeper Conrad Logan.
Hibs 2 Dundee United 0
First goalscorer: Jason Cummings
Hibs travel away to Dumbarton next Saturday, January 14th.