Aberdeen v Hearts preview: Dikamona in, Clare in contention, who starts up front?

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Hearts host Aberdeen on Saturday without key duo Uche Ikpeazu and John Souttar, who are both sidelined for five to six months with a foot and hip injury respectively.

Jambos boss Craig Levein insists he is better equipped to cope with injuries, having recruited extensively during the summer.

Steven Naismith celebrates giving Hearts the lead in the last match against Aberdeen at Tynecastle. Picture: SNS Group

Steven Naismith celebrates giving Hearts the lead in the last match against Aberdeen at Tynecastle. Picture: SNS Group

Clevid Dikamona will likely start on the right of a back three alongside veteran Aaron Hughes and Burnley loanee Jimmy Dunne, but Michael Smith is suspended following his red card in the 3-1 loss at Ibrox last time out.

The Capital club also have Sean Clare and Harry Cochrane available for selection.

Aberdeen have a full squad available apart from long-term absentee Mark Reynolds and on-loan defender Tommie Hoban, while Scott McKenna is suspended.

Hearts are likely to line up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Olly Lee sitting just behind a front two of Steven MacLean and Steven Naismith. Arnaud Djoum could start in the middle of the park alongside Peter Haring, and there could be a recall for Callumn Morrison, who made way for Ikpeazu in the last match.

Aberdeen will most likely operate a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Niall McGinn, Lewis Ferguson and Gary Mackay-Steven supporting lone striker Sam Cosgrove.

Andrew Considine is expected to partner Mikey Devlin in central defence .

Injuries / suspensions / unavailable

Hearts - Michael Smith sits this one out after his sending-off at Ibrox, while Christophe Berra, Jamie Brandon, Uche Ikpeazu and John Souttar are all sidelined.

Aberdeen - The Dons are without Mark Reynolds (knee) and Tommie Hoban (shoulder), while Scott McKenna is suspended.

Magic number

5 - the number of points Hearts took off Aberdeen last season - one win and two draws.

Key battle

Aaron Hughes will be looking forward to getting to grips with uncompromising Dons forward Sam Cosgrove. The bustling striker netted a brace against St Mirren and will be looking to add to his season’s tally.

Key stats

Aberdeen have only won four times against Hearts at Tynecastle in the last ten years. their most recent victory being a 2-1 win in May 2017. From the Hearts starting line-up, only Arnaud Djoum and Aaron Hughes remain at the club.

Hearts have come out on top nine times against the Dons in Gorgie in the same time period. Derek McInnes’ side are looking for two consecutive league victories for the first time since April.

Referee

Kevin Clancy is the man in the middle at Tynecastle. He’s taken charge of 26 matches involving Hearts, with the Jambos winning nine, losing nine and drawing eight. Of his 20 matches involving Aberdeen, the Dons have won eight, drawn seven and lost five.

Possible teams

Hearts: Zlamal; Dikamona, Hughes, Dunne; Morrison, Haring, Djoum, Mitchell; Lee; MacLean, Naismith. Subs from: Doyle, Garuccio, Bozanic, Cochrane, McDonald, Clare, Mulraney, Amankwaa, Wighton.

Aberdeen: Lewis; Logan, Devlin, Considine, Lowe; Ball, Shinnie; Mackay-Steven, Ferguson, McGinn; Cosgrove. Subs from: Cerny, Mackenzie, Gleeson, Campbell, Forrester, Ross, Anderson, Wright, McLennan, Wilson.

Kick-off: 3pm