Robbie Neilson is demanding a reaction from Hearts against Celtic today as they look to recover from last week’s lethargic defeat at Motherwell.
The Tynecastle head coach wants more energy and impetus in the performance and is preparing to reinstate Igor Rossi in defence.
Both Rossi and Juwon Oshaniwa were suspended at Fir Park as Lionel Ainsworth’s first-half goal almost ended Hearts’ chances of finishing second in the Premiership. Liam Smith deputised at left-back but Rossi is expected to return as the more experienced defender against Celtic.
The Parkhead club can virtually secure the league title if they win in Edinburgh in front of a live television audience. Neilson explained that a repeat of the display against Motherwell won’t be tolerated.
“Motherwell was disappointing,” he said. “Those performances have been few and far between since I’ve been here. We need to make sure that, next season, we don’t have as many of them. We will have a couple but hopefully not as many as this year. That’s the progress we need to make to be winning games we should be winning and trying to build from there.
“I expect us to perform well today because we’re going into a game against Celtic in front of a full house live on TV. It will be a great atmosphere, so I don’t think there will be an issue there. I’m looking for energy and I’m looking for people to be more aggressive when we get into good areas with shots and crosses. I think that was the issue last week. Although we passed the ball well at times, when we got into good areas we just overplayed, really. We didn’t excite the fans with enough shots at goal or crosses into the box. The opportunities were there to do it and we didn’t take them. We need to make sure we take these opportunities to give ourselves and the fans a lift.
“It’s getting the players to recognise that, when you get into these areas, you have to put people under pressure. You need to put balls into the danger zone and get shots at goal. I’ve yet to see a team that wins a game and scores three goals without having a shot at goal. You have to shoot and put opponents under pressure. I didn’t think we did that last week, so we need to try and rectify it.”
On the returns of Rossi and Oshaniwa, he commented: “It’s good to have them back after missing them last week. I had to put Liam over to left-back and I thought he did well but it’s not his natural position. We now have a full squad to choose from. Getting Rossi back is important because he’s done really well for us and that’s why he’s the Players’ Player of the Year. He adds strength and good, left-sided defending.”