It’s second versus third from the SPL in the glamour tie of the William Hill Scottish Cup Fourth Round at Tynecastle.
The Dons beat Hearts 1-0 in the last meeting between the two sides thanks to Adam Rooney’s late penalty in a close fought League encounter just a month ago – though they had a moment of madness from Hearts full-back Jordan McGhee to thank for that spot-kick with just three minutes to go as he handled in the box under no pressure.
Aberdeen were dominant possession wise in that encounter but this is the Cup and the Edinburgh side will have a partisan home crowd backing them, so you can throw the form book out of the window.
Hearts have drawn five of their last seven SPL games, losing that one at Pittodrie and narrowly beating bottom side Dundee United in the other, but drawing isn’t really a option in this game as the last thing they’ll want is a mid-week replay up in the North East.
The Dons, on the other hand, are pushing Celtic hard at the top of the table with four wins and three draws from their last seven – but that includes a goalless shut-out by Partick Thistle in their last match.
Hearts last won the Cup back in 2011/12 when they thumped neighbours Hibs 5-1 at Hampden but you have to go back to 1990 for when Aberdeen last picked up the silverware, so that’s a situation that they’ll be keen to rectify this season as the winners of this tie will fancy their chances of progression in the competition this term.
The game is being beamed out live on the BBC and if you take Celtic out of the equation, Aberdeen are second favourites to win the trophy and Hearts third so the victory for either side will give them a real chance of going all the way to Hampden Park.
Hearts boss Robbie Neilson has won the Scottish Cup as a player with Hearts when they beat Gretna on penalties in 2005/06 and will instil in his players the desire to do well in the competition as their chances of catching Celtic in the League are slender at best.
Dons boss Derek McInnes won a Scottish Cup medal while at Rangers in 1998/99 and he’s been around the block long enough to know that he’ll rarely have a better chance to go all the way as a manager than this term where his side are breathing down Celtic’s necks and if they can avoid them in subsequent draws, then they have a real opportunity.
But first he’ll have to steer his side through this tricky encounter first and the result is far from cut and dried in this clash. In all honesty, it could go either way with Aberdeen the slight favourites.
It could all come down to a lucky deflection, a bad refereeing decision or a mistake to settle this tie making it a hard one to call from a purely betting perspective but I’ll stick my neck on the line and go for Aberdeen to edge it.
Hearts Stats W10 D7 L4
Recent Form DLDDWD
Aberdeen Stats W13 D4 L4
Recent Form WWWWDD
12/12/15 Aberdeen 1 Hearts 0
20/09/2015 Hearts 1 Aberdeen 3
02/04/2014 Hearts1 Aberdeen 1
09/11/2013 Aberdeen 1 Hearts 3
24/08/2013 Hearts 2 Aberdeen 1
Hearts (4-4-2) – Alexander, McGhee, Ozturk, Rossi Branco, Oshinwa, Nicholson, Abankwah, Gomis, King, Sow, Reilly.
Aberdeen (4-4-1-1) –Ward, Logan, Taylor, Reynolds, Considine, Pawlett, Flood, G Shinnie, Hayes, McLean, Rooney.
Hearts: Walker (inj), El Hassnaoui (inj).