The last time the Edinburgh derby was staged in Leith at this time of year, back in 2015, the Bordeaux-born Moroccan scored a stoppage-time goal, adding to Jason Cummings’ opener, to seal a 2-0 win for Alan Stubbs’ team over their city rivals in the Championship.
Netting in a victory in one of Scotland showpiece fixtures remains one of the high points of the striker’s career. El Alagui, who also scored in a 2-1 defeat at Tynecastle early in the 2014/15 campaign, said: “Unfortunately I didn’t play as much as I would have liked at Hibs, but in the times I did play, I enjoyed myself. The derby when we won and I scored was the best moment for me. It was very special. It was a highlight of my football career in general, not just my Hibs career.
“It always puts a big smile on my face when I think about the Edinburgh derby. When I signed for Hibs, that was the first fixture I looked for and was looking forward to being involved in. As a player, I just loved playing in it. Every time I see Hibs playing Hearts I have a nice feeling because it’s a special game.”
Hibs’ derby victory in April 2015 wasn’t enough to stop Hearts coasting to the Championship title, but this weekend’s match offers Paul Heckingbottom’s team the tantalising prospect of moving six points clear of their city rivals with a superior goal difference and only three games remaining thereafter. Victory this weekend, therefore, will almost certainly leave the Easter Road side as the top dogs in Edinburgh for the second season running.
El Alagui, who is still based in Edinburgh and continues to keep a close eye on the fortunes of his former club, is confident they will extend their unbeaten run in the league to 11 matches. “I think Hibs will win,” he said. “I’ve watched a lot of Hibs under the new manager and I like the way they are playing. I like the attitude of the team and the atmosphere around the club at the moment. I just think Hibs are in better shape than Hearts just now. Hearts are struggling and it doesn’t look good for them at the moment. The body language of the players doesn’t look right – there is something missing. They also have the Scottish Cup final so they could have that in their minds. Hibs have the incentive of knowing that if they win, they’ll almost have guaranteed finishing ahead of Hearts. For me, Hibs are favourites to win it.”
El Alagui’s time is currently split between Edinburgh and his home city of Bordeaux where he is studying for a degree in sports management. After leaving Edinburgh City last summer, the 33-year-old is currently playing for French sixth-tier side Marmande, the club at which he started his career. “They are the first club I played for when I was six, so I will finish where I started,” said El Alagui, who had two injury-hit years with Hibs between 2014 and 2016. “I’ve got the opportunity to play on the side while I’m doing my studies, and I’m very happy about that. I want to stay in football and give something back to the game when I finish playing. I would like to work for a club as sport director or a general manager while also setting up an academy on the side.”