DARREN BARR is poised to return to Hearts’ starting line-up for Sunday’s Edinburgh derby as deputy for the suspended Marius Zaliukas.
The 26-year-old is expected to partner Andy Webster in central defence as Zaliukas serves a one-game suspension. Despite starting in midfield in Hearts’ 2-1 win at Ibrox two weeks ago, Barr was an unused substitute against St Mirren in the Scottish Cup last weekend. He is eager to make a lasting impression on manager Paulo Sergio and should get his opportunity against Hibs this weekend.
Sergio will make a final decision on the matter on Saturday but Barr is favourite to begin the match at centre-back.
The Portuguese must also decide who will play on the right of defence, with Jamie Hamill free of suspension to challenge Ryan McGowan for the right-back berth and Scott Robinson is available again having missed the St Mirren match due to flu.
The young midfielder has been in impressive form this season and his energy could be a vital attribute for what is likely to be a hectic derby encounter. With a Cup replay against St Mirren imminent on Wednesday, Hamill stressed that Hearts will not give any thought to that game until after the meeting with Hibs.
“We need to take one game at a time and right now we are focused on the derby,” he said.
“St Mirren is at the back of our minds but that is also going to be a massive game as we try to make the semi-finals.
“It’s good to still be in the Cup but the League is really important for us. We know we need to push on and try and finish as high up the table as we possibly can. The last thing we want to do is say our top-six place is secure because there are still a lot of games to go. Hopefully, we can go on and do that and then try and catch the teams above us.
“Derby games are great to play in, the atmosphere is amazing. I’ve played in two at Hearts and I’ve had experience of Ayr versus Kilmarnock as well. You know fans are up for it and desperate to see their side do well.
“As a player it doesn’t matter if you are playing in a derby or not, you still have to keep a cool head and let the fans concentrate on what they are doing. We just have to look to take three points from it.
“These are special games to play in and I enjoy being in and about the action. At the same, time you have to work hard and try and win your individual battles. That’s the key to winning derby games and I’m sure all the boys will be up for it.
“Hopefully if we play the way we can, we’ll go out and take the three points.”