Robbie Neilson believes Hearts can topple unbeaten Aberdeen in a game that deserves top billing in Scotland this weekend.
The Sky Sports cameras will be at Tynecastle as first meets third in the Ladbrokes Premiership and Neilson is adamant his team can end Aberdeen’s 100 per cent start.
Hearts aim to recapture winning form after successive defeats against Hamilton and Inverness and should have Blazej Augustyn back in central defence. He has spent the last six weeks recovering from hernia surgery but played 67 minutes of an under-20 match on Monday. Left-back Juwon Oshaniwa is suspended so Igor Rossi is expected to deputise.
Neilson watched Aberdeen win their seventh league game out of seven this season with a 1-0 victory over Hamilton on Tuesday. However, he is confident they will face a stern test at Tynecastle.
“Every team is beatable,” he told the Evening News. “We started the season with five wins on the bounce, then we went to Hamilton and lost. You have to make sure you go into any game giving 100 per cent and, if we do that, we have a chance of beating anybody. I believe that’s the case on Sunday. No team is going to go through the whole season winning every game. Aberdeen will drop points, Celtic and ourselves have already done so, and I think it’s all to play for.
“Aberdeen are a good team on a decent run, but we were on a decent run two games ago. Aberdeen have had a great start, they’re full of confidence and they’ve won seven on the bounce. They came back early for pre-season and I think their European games have stood them in good stead. They started the season really fit and they’re strong. We started the season really well also, although we dropped in the last two games. We want to get back on course again. We’re confident of giving them a good game at Tynecastle with a full house on our side.
“It’s a massive game. It will be the best game in Scotland this weekend.”
Augustyn is pushing for a recall to the starting line-up having played for the first time since his operation on Monday night as Hearts Under-20s drew 1-1 with St Mirren at Ochilview. He managed two competitive outings before going being told his hernia problem required surgery - the 4-3 win over St Johnstone on the opening weekend of the season and the 2-1 win at Dens Park the following week.
“Augustyn played in the under-20s on Monday night, so we’re looking good. We’re hopeful Morgaro Gomis will be available,” continued Neilson. “Blazej played just over an hour in the under-20s and he’s trained for the last two weeks, so he’ll be fine to come in if we need him. I could put Jordan McGhee in and shuffle Rossi over to left-back with Oshaniwa missing. I’ll see.”
• Aberdeen winger Jonny Hayes has lost his appeal against his sending-off against Celtic.
Hayes will now miss the unbeaten Ladbrokes Premiership leaders’ trips to Edinburgh to face Hearts on Sunday and Hibs in the League Cup on Wednesday.
Hayes was sent off for serious foul play by Craig Thomson following a sliding challenge on Mikael Lustig with the scores tied during Aberdeen’s 2-1 victory at Pittodrie on Saturday.
The Irishman said on Twitter: “Obviously gutted with the outcome! Hopefully, the boys can continue the run.”