By Lauren Witherspoon
Hearts captain, Michael Stewart, has claimed that the media have undermined his team, by “manipulating” his words, to boost Hibs chances of winning the first Edinburgh derby of the season.
The SPL match of the day kicks off at 12:30 on Saturday, with hearts hosting Hibs at Tynecastle, and there has been no shortage of drama in the countdown to D-day.
Stewart brandished the press “parasites” after it was reported he said Hibs recent surge up the SPL table was due to luck, and that Hearts failings were because they hadn’t had any of the rub of the green. The midfielder voiced his rage at the written press, saying: “They are complete parasites. They tried to manipulate, twist and put a spin on everything that has been said.”
Michael Stewart is expected to overcome the injury that saw him miss out against Motherwell at the weekend. The captain will relish the derby and if he plays to his full potential could overrun the Hibs midfield, and give Hearts the lift that they desperately need. However, the controversial player will have to leave the school boy behaviour in the dressing room if he is to control the game and lead his side to victory.
With Hibs currently sitting second place in the SPL, confidence is high amongst the Easter Road players. Hearts will have to play to their strengths of physicality, especially in defence, and aim to close down the opposition by constricting the space that HIbs like to utilise when expressing their passing game.
The Hibs manager, John Hughes hasn’t commented on Stewart’s fall-out with the Scottish press this week, but has disclosed that Moroccan playmaker, Merouanne Zemmama, is struggling to be fit, facing a race against time to recover from the groin strain that seen him limp out of his team’s match against Aberdeen last weekend.
Hughes also said that as a “precaution”, he had to send some of his squad home from training with cold symptoms, as a precaution. He said: “We’ve had one or two sniffles and we immediately told the players concerned to go straight home.”
Derek Riordan will be eager to get on the score sheet after failing to in Hibs’s last three games. The September player of the month has a habit for saving his best for the Derby, and Saturday’s may be the place for Riordan to break his scoring drought. Riordan is a familiar face to the Hearts support after being the centre of controversy in the last May’s encounter, when the striker was involved with a Hearts fan that ran on the pitch to confront him after he scored from the spot. Riordan’s penalty won the match for a patched up Hibs team, and secured the bragging rights across the city that have dogged Hearts since.
Colin Nish may be rewarded with a starting line up space in the Hibs team after coming off the bench to head in the winning goal in the late stages of the match against Aberdeen. The tall striker, perhaps the least ‘silky’ of the Hibernian forward line, could work out to be a good choice, being the ideal player to get amongst a physical Hearts defence, in a game according to history, that will often turn into a scrappy affair.
The well publicised need for a prolific striker is a worry for Hearts fans, but England under 21 player Andrew Driver could be the Tynecastle outfit’s best option for goals. While Hibs have been impressive, their defence has been moved around since the beginning of the season, with John Hughes having to field the inexperienced David Wotherspoon. Wotherspoon has shown glimpses of brilliance, scoring on the first day of the season, but he found the pressure too much when Hibs to Ibrox recently, and allowed Rangers to have a free reign down the right wing. If Wotherspoon cracks under the derby atmosphere, Driver will expose the young defender and could enjoy the kind of freedom that will allow Hearts to score.
Hibs recent tendency for fielding five attack minded players could spark a nightmare afternoon for Hearts. Hibs will have to go for a direct approach to goal as the neatness of the Tynecastle pitch will allow Hearts to punish Hibs on the counter attack if there passing is not slick. Claims amongst fans that Hibs are strong favourites to retain the bragging rights maybe sensibly conceived on current form, but only a fool would expect the expected in an Edinburgh derby. For Hearts it will be a chance to gain a confidence boost, and with a defeat expected by many Heart’s fans, they have nothing to lose, which can prove a vital advantage in football.