Aberdeen v Hibs preview: Hyndman to miss out, Mavrias in line for debut, Kamberi and Maclaren to start?
Hibs travel to Aberdeen looking to avoid a fourth consecutive Ladbrokes Premiership match without victory.
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The visitors will be buoyed by the return of Florian Kamberi, who’ll most likely come straight back into the starting XI after missing last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to St Johnstone through suspension.
It remains to be seen whether the Swiss striker will be partnered by Jamie Maclaren. The pair struck up such a potent relationship last season but have only started one match together this campaign: the defeat in Molde which ended the club’s Europa League campaign.
They’ll be looking to ask questions of an Aberdeen defence that has been one of the team’s few bright spots this season. The Dons, who’ve finished second in each of the last four years, are currently down in seventh place, though they are on a three-game winning streak having followed up their victory over Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-final with back-to-back league triumphs over Hamilton and Kilmarnock.
Young striker Bruce Anderson netted off the bench in the 2-1 win over Killie and fans are lobbying for the highly-rated 20-year-old to be given his first start.
Despite the three-game skid, Hibs could move back into joint-third tonight if they’re able to pick up all three points.
Injuries / suspensions / unavailable
Aberdeen - Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes has no fresh injury concerns. Greg Tansey is on his way back from a groin injury while Frank Ross (back), Tommie Hoban (shoulder) and Mark Reynolds (knee) remain out.
Hibs - Emerson Hyndman is unlikely to make the trip to Pittodrie as the American midfielder is struggling with an ankle injury. Paul Hanlon (thigh), Thomas Agyepong and David Gray (both ankle) are also set to miss out again, though there is increased competition for the right-back spot with recent signing Charalampos Mavrias in line to make his debut after completing 90 minutes of a reserve game in midweek.
Magic number - 25
That’s the number of goals Hibs scored in 11 league games when Kamberi and Maclaren partnered themselves in attack last season.
Stevie Mallan is a threat to score from anywhere inside 30 yards, though the knock on the midfielder is that he sometimes drifts out of games in open play. With Hibs already minus a midfielder in Emerson Hyndman, they’ll need Mallan to impose himself on this fixture as they look to take the game to Aberdeen. Trying to stop him from doing so will be Graeme Shinnie. Fans have been calling for the Dons captain to be restored to his previous left-back role, though McInnes finds him too valuable to drop from the midfield area, where his work rate and determination can drive the team forward.
We have to go back to May 2012 for the last time Hibs defeated Aberdeen at Pittodrie, though they have only played each other in the north east four times since then, with the Dons emerging victorious on three of those occasions. The two teams have almost identical records so far this term, having won three, lost one and drawn one of their five home games, while posting equal totals of wins, draws and losses from their six away matches. They even drew the previous meeting, 1-1 at Easter Road.
It was supposed to be Willie Collum, but the experienced referee dropped out on Friday morning after picking up a groin injury while away on Champions League duty. He’ll be replaced by Alan Muir. This will be the first Hibs match the whistler has taken charge of this season. Aberdeen, meanwhile, are more familiar with Muir from their 4-1 victory over St Mirren last month. You have to go back to January 31 and the 2-1 win against Motherwell (Kamberi’s debut, incidentally) for the last time Muir officiated a Hibs game.
Aberdeen (4-2-3-1): Lewis; Logan, Devlin, McKenna, Lowe; Shinnie, Ferguson; Mackay-Steven, Wright, McGinn; Anderson. Subs from: Cerny, Considine, Ball, Forrester, Gleeson, Cosgrove, May, Wilson, McLennan, Campbell.
Hibs (4-4-2 diamond): Bogdan; Whittaker, Ambrose, McGregor, Stevenson; Milligan; Mallan, Slivka; Horgan; Kamberi, Maclaren. Subs from: Marciano, Mavrias, Nelom, Porteous, Bartley, Boyle, Gullan, Murray, Shaw.