Neil Lennon has admitted Hibs travel to Tynecastle on Sunday as underdogs but insisted they will do so without fear and with nothing to lose.
Hibs continue their defence of the Scottish Cup with a return to the ground where they mounted a stunning comeback from two goals down with ten minutes remaining last season to force a replay which they won before going on to lift the trophy for the first time in 114 years.
Arch-rivals Hearts, however, again go into the match as favourites based not only on the fact they are a Premiership side facing a club currently enduring its third season in the Championship, but by the resurgence shown under new boss Ian Cathro in recent days.
Lennon, however, believes the memory of that dramatic 2-2 draw in Gorgie almost exactly a year ago will stand his players in good stead this time round, adamant they are determined not to relinquish their hold on the cup.
The Hibs boss said: “Any trophy when you have won it, you want to defend it the best you can and it is no different for us. It was a tremendous bit of history for the club and the players. That’s gone but when you are the holders you want to hold on to it, to keep it because I’m sure it’s given them and the supporters memories they will never forget. And you always want more of that.”
Noting that new Hearts head coach Cathro has added “quality and physicality” and that his side have been “very impressive” in their last two outings against Rangers and Motherwell, Lennon said: “We go into the game as underdogs. We are playing in a lower league and have done for the last couple of seasons – but we have nothing to lose and nothing to fear.”
However, he insisted the fact Hibs go into this latest Edinburgh derby unbeaten in their last five matches against Hearts “will certainly help,” adding: “There’s the experience gained from last year, good experience in our squad as well as quality. The form book goes out the window – it’s all on the day.
“Who can adapt to the game best and who can take their chances when they come along. Hopefully, that will be us. It’s going to be raw, intense but we have players who can handle that occasion.”
Lennon, speaking to Sky Sports, admitted Hibs fans will be looking to top scorer Jason Cummings, the 21-year-old striker who has claimed five goals in his last four visits to Tynecastle, including a double in the 8-1 hammering of Bonnyrigg Rose in the previous round, and who has scored in each of his last four matches against the side which released him as a teenager.
“His record is exceptional but that counts for nothing on Sunday. However, he is a player on form, our leading goalscorer and he is a big-game player. He loves the big games, he thrives on the atmospere and I am sure we will have some sort of influence on the game.”