Dunfermline v Hearts: Match preview, possible teams, key battle

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Hearts will travel to Fife tomorrow backed by a huge travelling support as they take on Dunfermline in the Betfred Cup.

More than 4,500 Jambos will cram into the away end at East End Park hoping to see Craig Levein’s side carry on their strong start to the season.

Hearts will hope to exorcise the ghosts of their last Betfred Cup meeting with Dunfermline. Picture: SNS Group

Hearts will hope to exorcise the ghosts of their last Betfred Cup meeting with Dunfermline. Picture: SNS Group

Club captain Christophe Berra has been ruled out for six months so Aaron Hughes will partner John Souttar in the centre of defence but Levein is still to choose a stand-in skipper for the league cup match.

Steven Naismith could get the nod, but Souttar’s performance after Berra was stretchered off in last week’s 1-0 win over Celtic will give the Hearts boss food for thought.

Arnaud Djoum is nearing a return to first team action but is still sidelined while Aidan Keena and Anthony McDonald will be assessed ahead of kick-off after picking up minor knocks in the midweek Irn-Bru Cup clash against Ross County.

Kyle Lafferty is expected to travel with the squad amid ongoing speculation over a transfer to Rangers.

The Pars should have a near full squad to choose from, with Allan Johnston’s only injury concern being Lewis Martin.

Faissal El Bakhtaoui could start as a lone striker while the impressive Longridge brothers - Jackson and Louis - will likely link up on the left flank once again.

Dunfermline have won six of their seven opening competitive fixtures this campaign and will be hoping to do “the double” over Hearts after beating them at Tynecastle in the same competition last year.

Magic number

74 - the number of times Hearts have beaten the Pars in competitive fixtures.

Key battle

Mark Durnan will likely come up against Uche Ikpeazu and won’t be able to switch off for a moment.

Referee

Bobby Madden is the man in the middle at East End Park tomorrow. Last season, he sent Craig Levein to the stand during a 1-1 draw with Hamilton at Tynecastle, and was then blasted by the Hearts boss for his performance in a 3-1 loss to Celtic after the whistler disallowed a goal for the Jambos and booked three men in maroon in the opening 30 minutes. Of the 27 games he’s refereed involving Hearts, they’ve won just eight, drawn six and lost 13.

Possible teams

Dunfermline: Robinson; Williamson, Durnan, Ashcroft, J Longridge; Vincent, Thomson, Craigen, Higginbotham, L Longridge; El Bakhtaoui. Subs from: Gill, Connolly, Todd, Hippolyte, Ryan, Smith, McCann, Allan, Beadling.

Hearts: Zlamal; M Smith, Hughes, Souttar, Garuccio; Lee, Haring, Naismith, Mulraney; Ikpeazu, MacLean. Subs from: Doyle, Hamilton, Baur, Burns, Morrison, Cochrane, Edwards, Bozanic, Lafferty.

Kick-off: 3pm