Hearts will take a pragmatic approach to tonight’s match at Parkhead in the hope of causing a major upset in the third round of the League Cup.
Head coach Robbie Neilson is preparing to change formation against Celtic and ask his players for a slightly more cautious mentality than recently. However, his team will still include plenty of pace to hit on the counter-attack.
Neilson has winger Sam Nicholson and left-back Kevin McHattie pushing to play again after injury, whilst Prince Buaben could return from suspension to reinforce the midfield. Hearts have scored 23 goals in nine competitive games so far this season and drawn praise for their attack-minded philosophy, but Neilson will make defensive solidity a priority in Glasgow.
The head coach believes beating Rangers at Ibrox in the opening league game last month shows Hearts have the ability to beat the Old Firm. He has devised a plan aimed at containing Celtic whilst allowing Hearts to create the chances to record a third consecutive League Cup win at Parkhead.
“Winning against Rangers helps in terms of confidence,” Neilson told the Evening News. “The experience of going to Glasgow and winning a game is going to be huge for the players. We’ve been working on some stuff and we will change our shape a little bit. We’ll also change our mentality a bit as well so that we go there and try to do the right things.
“This will be an indication of where we are. Celtic are taking this game very seriously. I went to watch their game on Sunday and they rested six players so it’s a huge game for them and us. We need to be ready and be prepared so that we go there with confidence.
“In a way, it suits us being underdogs. Things have flipped round because, for the last few weeks, we’ve been the favourites in our league games and teams have been sitting in and making it difficult for us. The roles will be reversed tonight. We need to be defensively strong but we also need to use our threat on the attack and use our pace and power.”
Hearts’ recent signing Miguel Pallardo is not likely to feature tonight. The Spanish midfielder is expected to make his debut against Livingston at Tynecastle on Sunday.
“All the boys are back fit again so we’ll make a decision about who is going to play tonight,” continued
Neilson. “Pallardo just isn’t quite ready to go to Parkhead. He’s been training and he’ll train again on Thursday and Friday with a view to possibly playing on Sunday.”