Hearts and Hibernian meet in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden on Saturday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the main talking points ahead of the second Edinburgh derby on successive weekends.
Shaun Maloney must stop the negativity
With just one win in 13 league games since the winter break, Shaun Maloney, who was appointed Hibernian manager in December, is already under scrutiny from some of the club’s supporters. After a meek second-half performance in a 3-1 loss to Hearts last weekend, the rookie boss cannot afford another bad loss at the hands of his team’s main rivals. On the other hand, if Maloney can somehow find a way to achieve victory and banish some of the ghosts of Hampden’s previous demoralizing losses against Hearts, it would go a long way in earning him renewed goodwill and patience from a fan base. frustrated that they enter the ban.
Robbie Neilson can banish lingering doubts
Things could hardly be going better for Robbie Neilson right now. After being the subject of protests from fans a year ago following the Scottish Cup humiliation at the hands of Brora Rangers, the Hearts manager has emphatically bounced back by leading his team to third place in his first season in the highest category. The only thing that could alter the feel-good factor at the moment is a Scottish Cup defeat at the hands of their cross-town rivals. If Neilson can get away unscathed this weekend, and by doing so secure lucrative European group stage football for next season, it will surely dispel any lingering skepticism among a minority who have never really been attracted to him.
The Hibs Hampden Derby Hex
Hearts and Hibs have met three times at Hampden in the Scottish Cup in the last 16 years, with the Tynecastle side winning all three games 11-2 on aggregate. These included 4-0 and 2-1 semi-final wins in 2006 and 2020, as well as the 2012 final which Hearts won 5-1. Memories of those terrible Hampden derbies are among the main reasons Hibs fans have been slow to get tickets to Saturday’s game. Maloney’s side must break a grim recent trend if he is to make it to the final.
Ryan Porteous is in the midst of a four-match suspension in the Cinch Premiership, but the Hibs defender is eligible for Saturday’s match. After missing the last two league games, including last weekend’s 3-1 loss at Tynecastle, the 23-year-old is expected to return to the starting eleven to try and make Maloney’s side more competitive. The stocky centerpiece is perfectly capable of towering over and inspiring those around him to greater heights, but he’s also partial to a moment of recklessness that could cost him his life. A strong and, more importantly, composed performance from Porteous is crucial to Hibs’ hopes of overcoming their cross-town rivals.
The attack power of hearts
Hearts seem stronger than Hibs in most departments, but particularly attacking. With Kevin Nisbet injured and Christian Doidge struggling through fitness issues, and several recent recruits still finding his place, Maloney doesn’t have an attacker he can rely on right now. By contrast, Hearts have a variety of high-quality strikers, including the in-form and dangerous trio of Barrie McKay, Ellis Simms and Liam Boyce. The statistics highlight this disparity, with the Easter Road side managing just three goals in their last six games, and Hearts scoring 16 in their last seven.
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