By Jack Currie
The Edinburgh Derby is the pick of the bunch as the Scottish Premiership returns in full this midweek as match-day eleven presents some mouth watering action.
After a whirlwind weekend of Betfred Cup action the Edinburgh derby is the feature match of the round as Neil Lennon takes his Hibs side on the short journey to Gorgie. The card also includes a trip to Dundee for Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard welcomes high flying Kilmarnock to Ibrox.
The standout match of this week’s fixture list see’s the first Edinburgh derby of the season take place at Tynecastle. Craig Levein will be hoping his side can quickly bounce back from Sunday’s disappointing result against Celtic at BT Murrayfield. Celtic ran out 3-0 winners against the Jam Tarts, just their second defeat of the campaign, the other coming in a 3-1 away defeat to Rangers.
Hibs come into the game sitting in fifth place, eight points behind Hearts, although they have played a game more. Neil Lennon brings his Hibs side to Tynecastle following a 4-2 defeat to Celtic at Parkhead, however they had won their previous three league games all to nil.
Hearts were today dealt the blow that star man Steven Naismith will be ruled out until at least Christmas with a torn cartilage in his knee. The experienced forward, who recently established himself as Alex McLeish’s number one striker for the national team, will be a big miss for Craig Levein who finds himself with a catalogue of injuries to deal with.
The news comes following the recent announcement that both John Souttar and Uche Ikpeazu were both ruled out for at least 6 months. Added to the injuries of Christophe Berra, Jamie Brandon and Peter Haring, Hearts will be going into the match with a thread-bare defence.
Hibs come into the game with a full selection of players with no new injury concerns facing Neil Lennon. With maximum options available to the Northern Irishman Lennon will have selection headaches right up until kick off.
Former Hibs striker Tam McManus is no stranger to the derby. Now turned pundit, McManus came through the youth ranks in Leith and knows exactly what the game means to both sets of supporters, but in particular the Hibs fans that he represented on derby day.
He said: “The derby means everything to the Hibs fans, it is a massive game for both sides because the rivalry is so huge. There is not only points at stake but also bragging rights in Edinburgh.”
With both sides having made a positive start to the league campaign McManus believes that will drive both camps to push for the victory even more.
“Cauldron of noise and colour”- Tam McManus on playing at Tynecastle
He added: “With the two sides flying high near the top of the table it adds even more edge to the game and there is nothing more satisfying that beating your rivals.” McManus, who made his debut for Hibs against Hearts at Tynecastle spoke about his experiences of that match, he said: “I can still remember how nervous I was running out the tunnel that day into a cauldron of noise and colour. Even though we lost I had played really well and got man of the match. It is an experience I will never forget as the atmosphere was electric.”
Tynecastle is expected to be sold-out come Wednesday night.
The former Hibs frontman believes it will be a tight encounter on Wednesday night with many mitigating factors possibly coming into play, he said: “My thoughts are that Hearts will go into the game as favourites due to the brilliant home record they have under Craig Levein, plus they are top of the table.”
With the news however surrounding Steven Naismith’s injury, McManus believes the missing stars could be key in method to victory for Lennon, he explained: ” Hearts are now missing 4 or 5 key players. Hibs have the quality to take advantage but in derby games the margins can be so tight.”
And McManus detailed the qualities needed to win on derby day, he said: “It’s about who turns up on the night and performs. So form, teams and formations on the pitch are not as important as showing that desire and will to win for your club.”
The other Premiership fixtures on Wednesday evening include; Aberdeen v Hamilton; Dundee v Celtic; Livingston v St Johnstone; Rangers v Kilmarnock; and St Mirren v Motherwell.