Today’s games start off with a meeting of the Edinburgh ‘giants’ at Tynecastle this midday. HEARTS v HIBS is normally a mouth-watering fixture for fans and neutrals alike – there is a somewhat surreal feeling about this afternoon’s clash, however.
The future of the home team’s continued existence is still in doubt, with a mostly youthful, unfamiliar looking team taking to the field of play. They were flattered with their 1-0 loss to St Johnstone last week.
Hibs also lost 1-0 last week, at home against Motherwell, although I believe that was a much tighter match. The Easter Road side have now shipped ten goals in three competitive games without reply. (Leigh Griffiths scored two in Wolves impressive 4-0 victory yesterday).
What is in doubt with Hibs is the continued existence of Pat Fenlon as coach. The 9-0 aggregate loss to Malmo was simply embarrassing and to start off the league campaign with a home defeat has not helped matters at all. Should he lose to a young Hearts side today then calls for his dismissal, albeit so early in the season, will surely intensify.
Hearts themselves must be feeling the pressure in each game they play. Putting off-field matters to the side, the young Jambos go into today’s match still minus fifteen points behind their nearest rivals and are firm favourites for relegation. Predicting the outcome of any derby match is difficult – today’s is especially so!
Hearts forward Dale Carrick is the only absentee from their squad. The story for Hibs is not so bright. James McPake, Tim Clancy, Bradley Donaldson, Alex Harris and Paul Cairney are all likely absentees. Hearts simply must try to take advantage of their rivals’ injury woes.
Prediction: in the most unpredictable clash of this pair in recent years I am going for a home win for Hearts.
KILMARNOCK V ST JOHNSTONE at Rugby Park later on in the afternoon. The Perth Saints were so unlucky to go out of the Europa League on Thursday and did themselves and Scotland proud. Had they progressed to the final qualifying round – as I think they deserved to – I would have had no hesitation in taking them to beat Killie this afternoon. They lost , however, after one hundred and twenty minutes of football and the agony of a 3-2 loss on penalties. The physical, mental and emotional impact of Thursday may prove hard to shrug off. Killie captain Manuel Pascali was a bad miss for the Ayrshire side last season and they may be boosted by his return to the squad today. Kris Boyd is always a goal threat, despite the failings in other parts of his game.
Prediction: Kilmarnock for a home win.
At Fir Park, where MOTHERWELL V ABERDEEN, we have, in my humble opinion, the fixture of the weekend. The Steelmen were ‘best of the rest’ behind Celtic last season and will fight tooth and nail to protect that position. The Dons, despite having a poor campaign last season, have strong aspirations to take that second spot this term. They have bought well and I personally think they will finish second this season. Whether they can get a result at Fir Park this afternoon may be a guide as to how The Dons may fare this season – but only a very loose guide. Fir Park is not a good hunting ground for any team in the Premiership – including champions Celtic – and it would be foolish to write off The Dons should they lose today. Both teams started the season with 1-0 victories last week and a win for either of them would put them to joint first in the league, along with ICT!
For Motherwell, Lee Hollis is expected to reclaim the goalkeeper’s jersey for today’s match. The likes of John Sutton, Iain Vigurs and James McFadden are all available today. Aberdeen have the same squad available to them which were victorious last week. In trying to figure out who will be the stronger of the two over the season I believe you have to look at the ‘net’ profit/loss of incoming/outgoing players over the close season. I rate both of the respective team managers but I believe the Aberdeen outfit come clearly out on top with regards to squad improvement. If I am honest, the Motherwell squad is overall weaker than that of last season and has a distinct lack of pace. This could be exploited by the likes of last year’s star Don, Niall McGinn. I really hope this match lives up to my personal expectations. If it does then we are in for a firecracker of a match at Fir Park!
Prediction: I acknowledge that this game could go either way but I am sticking my neck out and going for an away win for Aberdeen.