Hearts have the chance to go back into second spot in the Ladbrokes Premier Division if they can beat an Inverness Caley Thistle side that had been weakened by a number of players sidelined through injury in recent weeks.
The Edinburgh side had to battle to a 2-2 draw with struggling Motherwell last weekend and they’ll have to dig deep again if they want to take the three points. Hearts came from behind twice to claim that point and although they’ve been fantastic in their first season back in the top flight, the honeymoon period is now over and it’s time to pull up their socks, dig in and grind out results against sides that they should really be beating.
It’s about pride, self-belief and finding that killer instinct to finish teams off. Sure, Hearts are unbeaten in eight games, but they’ve drawn four of them including stalemates against Kilmarnock, Dundee and Motherwell – teams that manager Robbie Neilson will feel that they should be putting away.
And with Alim Ozturk, Jamie Walker and Soufian El Hassnaoui all looking to get back from injury this week, Neilson’s selection options will receive a boost and he’ll be hopeful that the Tynecastle side can kick on from here.
But Caley Thistle are also hopeful of clearing their treatment room this week with Richie Foran, Dean Brill, Jordan Roberts, Aaron Dorran and Ryan Christie all hopeful of making comebacks on the training ground this week which would prove a massive enhancement to the Highlanders chances after their Sunday 3-1 home defeat by leaders Celtic.
Caley Thistle gaffer John Hughes will expect his team to get back on track with all these players returning though it may take them a little while to shake off the rust as many of them have been out long-term, so they’ll need to adjust to the pace of the game and it may be a couple of weeks before we start to see an impact.
The Highlanders beat Hearts 2-0 at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium back in September in what has proved one of only three defeats for the Jambos in the League so far this term and they’ll be keen to rectify that on their own soil with a vociferous crowd behind them.
And with Aberdeen finally re-finding their form and leapfrogging the capital outfit into second spot last weekend, they will need to maintain so sort of consistency to keep up the pressure on the Dons as they slog it out for the runners-up spot and the chance of European competition next season.
The form book definitely tips the odds in favour of Hearts and they’re looking a good bet for the win but Caley Thistle’s returning players could have an impact and you get the feeling that they’d be happy to come away from the game with a point as a foundation to start building from.
With Partick, Kilmarnock and Motherwell all breathing down Caley Thistle’s neck they need to start stringing results together quickly before they get sucked into a relegation battle of their own.
Hearts Stats W9 D4 L3
Recent Form WLWWDD
Inverness Caley Thistle Stats W4 D5 L7
Recent Form LLDWLL
11/09/2015 Inverness CT 2 Hearts 0
15/02/2014 Inverness CT 0 Hearts 0
02/02/2014 Hearts 4 Inverness CT 6
14/12/2013 Hearts 0 Inverness CT 2
31/08/2013 Inverness CT 2 Hearts 0
Hearts (4-2-3-1) – Alexander, Paterson, Augustyn, Rossi Branco, Oshaniwa, Sutchuin, Lloria, Pallardo, Nicholson, Swanson, Sow.
Inverness CT (4-4-1-1) –Williams, Meekings, Warren, Devine, Williams, Tansey, Draper, Vincent, Polworth, Vigurs, Storey.
Inverness CT: none