Robbie Neilson’s Heart of Midlothian are looking to maintain the heat on Celtic at the top of the table as they take on Hamilton Academicals at Tynecastle.
The Jam Tarts went into second spot with their comprehensive 4-0 weekend victory on the road at Partick Thistle and a win would take them to within three points of the leaders so you can expect Neilson – who was recently linked with the Aston Villa job – to pull out all the stops as they continue to impress after being promoted back into the top flight as SPFL Championship champions last term.
The momentum of the team has continued into the new season and Hearts have been notable in the manner in which they have returned by wracking up 24 goals and conceding just 14 – second only to the Celts in their defensive record.
Spanish striker Delgado Lloria leads the way with 8 goals from 13 appearances and is as likely to score on the pitch as he is in one of the city’s nightclubs. The bearded 24-year-old from Valencia is as popular with the club’s female following around the town as he is with his team-mates on the pitch.
His strike partner Osman Sow his bagged seven and the Swede provides another potent goal threat in a game that has seen plenty of goals traditionally, although it is four seasons since the clubs have met regularly.
Hamilton were beaten 4-2 at home by in-form St. Johnstone in their last game and had drawn against Partick Thistle and Dundee in the two previous fixtures, so player boss Martin Canning’s side are unlikely to get back to winning ways in the Capital.
The Accies inflicted a 3-2 defeat on Hearts back in September at New Douglas Park, but are out at around 3/1 to pull off what would be a surprise win at Hearts.
Dougie Imrie and Jesus Garcia Tena are both on four yellow cards and risk suspension so will have to watch their tackles in the game – which could give Neilson’s side a bit edge as they target the Spanish defender who may be a bit reluctant to clatter into his countryman Lloria to avoid a ban at this important stage of the season.
Tena is, however, a professional and with boss Canning alongside him barking out instructions and organising on the pitch, will not shirk a challenge. The card count will be the last thing on his mind once he crosses the white line unto the pitch and the atmosphere kicks in.
The bookies expect Hearts to win the fixture and with the added bonus of making up ground on the leaders, you can expect the Edinburgh outfit to go for the jugular from the start.
Hamilton may be reliant on a strong defensive display to take anything from the game, having netted 18 and conceded 18 so far this season and their goals have been well spread throughout the side as Dougie Imrie tops the scoring charts with just four – so their greatest danger may come from set-pieces played into the box.
But the bookies are rarely wrong and getting on Hearts to win looks a good bet.
Hearts Stats W8 D2 L3
Recent Form DDWWLW
Hamilton Accies Stats W5 D3 L5
Recent Form WWLDDL
29/08/2015 Hamilton Accies 3 Hearts 2
12/02/2011 Hamilton Accies 0 Hearts 2
20/11/2010 Hearts 2 Hamilton Accies 0
21/08/2010 Hamilton Accies 0 Hearts 4
21/02/2010 Hearts 2 Hamilton Accies 0
Hearts (4-4-2) – Alexander, Paterson, McGhee, Rossi Branco, Oshaniwa, Swanson, Sutchuin, Buaben, Nicholson, Sow, Lloria.
Hamilton Accies (4-1-4-1) – McGovern, Gordon, Garcia Tena, Canning, Kurakins, Gillespie, Imrie, Kurtaj, Longridge, Crawford, Nade.
Hearts: Öztürk (inj), El Hassnaoui (inj).
Hamilton Accies: none