Hearts face a real test when they visit in-form Saint Johnstone for a mouth-watering third versus fourth placed clash.
Both sides go into the game on the back of defeats by the two teams that sit above them in the table – Saints were beaten 3-0 at home by leaders Celtic and Hearts narrowly lost 1-0 at second-placed Aberdeen.
But super Saints had been the form team in the Scottish Premier League prior to that defeat and the expectation is that they with come out all guns blazing at McDiarmid Park as just a point separates the two sides.
The meeting at Tynecastle early in the season produced a seven-goal thriller with Hearts just edging it and hopes are high that the teams can release the shackles and go for an all-out attacking encounter again this weekend.
Tommy Wright’s Perth side certainly gave leaders Celtic plenty to ponder during the first half of last weekend’s encounter and they’ll hope to pose a few questions for Robbie Neilson’s outfit too.
Hearts had drawn their two games previous to the defeat at Aberdeen and are looking to get back on track and open up a gap between themselves and Saints, so will be keen to weather what should prove an early storm from the hosts and look to hit them on the break.
Saints had won five and drawn one prior the visit of the defending Champions and no-body really expected them to get anything from that, so they’ll put it behind them and go all out to try and wrestle third spot from the visitors.
Expect goals, cards and plenty of goalmouth action from this one and don’t rule out the likelihood of a draw as both clubs would certainly see a point as a positive outcome rather than going away with nothing.
It could be cagey and a lot will rest in Hearts’ ability to get to grips with the atmosphere and expected early pressure as they look to reduce the seven point gap that Aberdeen have opened up in second spot – albeit having played a game more.
So it’s all to play for at McDiarmid Park and if the sides can’t get their pulses racing for this one, then they need to visit the physio for a shot of adrenalin, going bungee jumping, chase some skirt around town or something. Anything to prevent it becoming a damp squib; because Scottish football needs games like these to set the pulse racing, to get the fans out of their seats and generate more TV revenue.
Whether the respective managers will throw caution to the wind remains to be seen. The game has got the men in suits on the touchlines so jumpy that they probably wear a coat in the shower as the stakes are getting so high and jobs going at the slightest run of failure.
From a purely gambling perspective, though, the draw looks like a reasonable bet.
St. Johnstone Stats W9 D3 L6
Recent Form WWWDWL
Hearts Stats W9 D4 L4
Recent Form LWWDDL
02/08/2015 Hearts 4 St Johnstone 3
18/01/2014 St Johnstone 3 Hearts 3
02/11/2013 Hearts 0 St Johnstone 2
04/08/2013 St Johnstone 1 Hearts 0
05/03/2013 Hearts 2 St Johnstone 0
St. Johnstone (4-1-3-2) –Mannus, Mackay, Shaughnessy, Anderson, Easton, Millar, Davidson, Wotherspoon, Craig, O'Halloran, MacLean.
Hearts (4-4-2) – Alexander, Paterson, Augustyn, Rossi Branco, McGhee, Sutchuin, Pallardo, Bauben, Nicholson, Lloria, Sow.
St. Johnstone: none.
Hearts: El Hassnaoui (inj).