Our online team give their verdict on Saturday’s Ladbrokes Premiership match between Dundee and Hearts at the Kilmac Stadium at Dens Park...
While the Scottish Cup replay against Partick on Tuesday is of great importance for Hearts, so is this match. They are slipping down the Premiership table, away from the European spots and closer to the scuffle to remain in the top six. Considering that Hearts’ last three pre-split matches are against Aberdeen, Rangers and Hibs, then taking maximum points from their next two matches against relegation-threatened Dundee and Hamilton is vital. It would alleviate any fears of spectacularly crashing down to the bottom half of the table. Whether they fashion a win at Dundee is debatable, however. It’s easy to use Steven Naismith’s absence as the main excuse, but the truth is that Hearts’ problems run deeper than that. They are conceding goals at an increased rate, they aren’t creating enough chances in open play and aren’t converting enough of the ones that they do. Dundee are down at the bottom for a reason though and their defence can be exposed. This is a good chance for Hearts to put a much-needed spring in their step - but I don’t think they will. Prediction: Draw.
It’s hard to make a strong case for Hearts triumphing considering their recent struggles against sides they would ordinarily be expected to defeat. If they start the way they did against Partick Thistle on Monday and are able to capitalise when they are on top, they should win the game. Dundee, however, are a stronger side than Thistle and are unlikely to allow the visitors to have it all their own way. Prediction: Draw
This one will come down to how Dundee’s defence performs. The Dark Blues were dreadful at the back when Hibs visited Dens Park last month and equally poor when they went to Ibrox the following midweek. Hearts could really do with playing a generous defence at the moment as they struggle to break down opponents in both league and cup. If Dundee have a good day, expect them to frustrate Uche Ikpeazu who may find himself once again leading the attack with a little support. If they don’t, expect the visitors to net at least a couple even without Steven Naismith. Prediction: Score draw.
It’s getting more difficult by the week to predict the outcome of games involving Hearts. Having taken the lead at Firhill on Monday night, Craig Levein’s men showed a real naivety as they were taken to a Scottish Cup replay by Partick Thistle - a game they could really do without. They now have to contend with the loss of talisman Steven Naismith, who is set for another extended spell on the sidelines. Hearts still have enough quality at their disposal but the squad aren’t performing anywhere near their capabilities. Dundee’s sole objective this season is to retain their Premiership status and with Hearts having one eye on the cup, I think the home side will prevail. Prediction: Dundee win.
I think Hearts could struggle in the City of Discovery, and not just because of Steven Naismith’s absence. Craig Levein’s side haven’t enjoyed a great run of results on the road recently and were beaten by Jim McIntyre’s side at Tynecastle earlier this season. Dundee have quietly improved with the arrival of Andrew Nelson and Andy Dales, and are a better team than the side which succumbed to the Jambos in October.
With Hamilton facing a daunting trip to in-form Motherwell, a result against Hearts would move the Dark Blues closer to Accies in the table and further away from St Mirren. I reckon this could play out in a similar fashion to the cup game at Partick. Prediction: Draw
In 28 league games Dundee have kept just three clean sheets. They haven’t had a shutout in nine games this year and have shipped eight in their last two games. Looking at that should provide Hearts fans with confidence. Alternatively it will likely provoke fatalism and the view that Hearts will help the Dens Park side towards their first clean sheet this year. Concentrating on the bare stats, Hearts will score. The question is can Craig Levein’s men either finish off their opponents or find that steeliness and see the game out? The lack of reliability at the back of the Dundee defence will allow Uche Ikpeazu to score his first goal since returning from injury ahead of the crucial clash with Partick Thistle. Prediction: Hearts win