By Mark Pryde and David Maxwell
Edinburgh has been gripped by football fever as city rivals Hearts and Hibernian gear up for one of the most important derbies in over a decade.
Saturday’s game at Tynecastle comes at a pivitol moment in the season for both sides who find themselves at opposing ends of the Scottish Premier League.
Home side Hearts are currently in 8th place having suffered their worst start to the SPL season in 9 years, and under-pressure boss Csaba Laszlo is hoping a vital win over their fiercest rivals will propel the Jambos up the league standings.
“We have had an inconsistent season,” said last season’s Manager of the Year Lazlo. “Our results have been up and down, and we must get results.”
“Goals change games, and we havent been scoring enough recently. Tomorrow’s derby gives us a chance to change this, and get ourselve some points.
“Im confident we have what it takes to beat Hibs.”
One major criticism of Laszlo this season has been an over-reliance on younger players, but 20-year-old midfielder Jonny Thomson believes his manager has little choice.
“Experienced players cost a lot of money nowadays,” said Thomson. “I dont think any SPL side can afford to buy success, so youth players are getting more of a chance.”
“You just need to look at players in our squad like Craig Thomson and Lee Wallace to see that blooding youngsters has its advantages.”
Across the city in Leith, Hibernian have started the season brightly and now find themselves 2nd in the league, one point ahead of SPL champions Rangers.
New boss John Hughes has made some shrewd moves in the transfer market including the signing of Irish pair Liam Miller and Anthony Stokes from Sunderland, and the Hibees are unbeaten in their last 6 league games.
Hibs fans will be hoping that a derby win on Saturday could provide a launchpad for a serious challenge against the traditional Old Firm dominance of the SPL.
“I do think the pressure is on them, they have to start winning football matches,” said Hibs Gaffer Hughes. They are at home and it is up to them to come out and win it.
“As such, it is going to be an interesting game tactically and I’m looking forward to that battle as well.
“On these occasions, the form book goes right out the window. We have to apply ourselves, keep our concentration. Derbies often come down to who has that wee bit of a maverick in their team to win the game and I think we can do that.”
The Edinburgh Derby has provided some classic encounters over the past few years, but fans from both sides of the divide will simply be hoping to see their side come away with maximum points on the day.