HEARTS coach Robbie Neilson welcomed an Edinburgh derby against Hibs in the Scottish Cup fifth round and labelled it an ideal tie.
Neilson stressed he would rather face his city rivals than travel to lower-league opposition and expects Tynecastle to be raucous for this season’s only Capital derby.
For the second successive round, Hearts will take part in the tie of the round after beating Aberdeen 1-0 on Saturday. Hibs’ visit to Gorgie is the flagship match of the last 16 and will assume even greater significance given the clubs cannot meet in the league this year.
Hearts will be favourites as a Premiership team welcoming Championship visitors, but Neilson stressed his players should be wary of Hibs. “There’s no Edinburgh derby in the league this season so that guarantees a full house. The place will be rocking so it’s a great one to be involved in,” he told the Evening News. “The harder ties would be if we had to go away to a lower league team and there’s nobody there. This is going to be a great day for the city. We have home advantage and we’re doing well in the top league, so I would say we probably are favourites. We just have to accept that.
“I would say Hibs will fancy their chances, though. They’re a good team and they’re going really well in the Championship. Their form is good and very rarely do they get beat. They’ll come into this tie full of confidence.”
The tie is expected to take place on Sunday, February 7, and be broadcast live on television. Scotland face England in a rugby international at Murrayfield the previous day, which likely rules that date out.
“It’s a great tie for the city,” continued Neilson. “You want to be at home, first and foremost, no matter who you draw. To get a game like this is going to be massive for Edinburgh again. It’s going to be a full house, I’d expect it to be on TV again so it’s a fantastic match and one I’m really looking forward to.
“It’s been a while since we played Hibs but we’re in good form. These are the games that all the boys want to play in. These are the ones they’ll look forward to so we have to keep them all focused in the league now. This game is nearly four weeks away so we need to concentrate on our league form for the moment. It will always be in the back of their minds that they want to be involved against Hibs because it’s a huge one for everyone.
“I think it is definitely another tie of the round. I thought the game against Aberdeen was great because there was a really good atmosphere and it was live on TV under the floodlights. You can’t ask for any more than that.
“We’ll be hoping for a similar performance to the one against Aberdeen but we need to do it in the league games leading up to it as well. We have some tough games coming up and it’s vital we don’t take our eyes off the ball. We need to make sure we’re focused and then take that form into the cup game.”