Experienced Hearts player set to return against Hibs as management reveal their derby approach

Hearts players will be told to mix a competitive edge with composed football against Hibs as management set out their Edinburgh derby gameplan.

Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie at Easter Road is the pick of the fourth round and Hearts will arrive on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run. They trounced Aberdeen 5-0 at Tynecastle Park on Friday, but manager Robbie Neilson expects a much closer affair in Leith.

He wants his players to produce the aggression levels required for derbies but then to use the ball intelligently to hurt their rivals. “Sunday is a different ball game,” he said. “It's always great to get a result like Wednesday’s but I spoke to the players after the game and said: 'You can pat yourselves on the back for a couple of minutes, but now it's about Sunday.'

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“It's important, we have to win on Sunday no matter what happens. The most important thing in a derby is to have that aggression and fight to compete, but you also need to show the calmness to go and play.

“I thought the goals came at the right times for us against Aberdeen and sometimes that can change the flow of a game. The pleasing thing for me was that we showed that aggression on the front foot, going up and pressing the game, winning balls high up the pitch. Sometimes we gave away free-kicks up there.”

Stephen Kingsley returned against Aberdeen after almost a month out with concussion, and midfielder Andy Halliday is pushing to overcome the same issue to be available against Hibs. Garang Kuol will be assessed after illness.

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“I was pleased to get Kingsley on in midweek. The plan was to give him 15 or 20 minutes. Thankfully, we managed to do that with the way the game went,” explained Neilson. “I'd expect Andy Halliday to be round about it for Sunday. As far as I know he is following the protocols pretty well so he should be available.”

Recent Japanese signing Yutaro Oda made his Hearts debut as a late substitute on Wednesday. Neilson reported that he is working hard to settle quickly in Edinburgh after moving from Vissel Kobe.

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EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 05: Robbie Neilson during a Heart of Midlothian training session at the Oriam, on January 05, 2023, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“He hasn't played since the end of November so we need to be careful with him,” explained the manager. “The plan was to give him five or ten minutes and we managed to do that. He is going to take time to adjust to the 400 miles an hour that is Scottish football at times.

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"Even in training we can see his sharpness. I think the fans maybe saw that in a couple of wee movements he did the other night. I think he will do well for us.

"He is settling in. We have a translator for him although he does speak a bit of English as well. He is desperate to learn. He's got a tutor now and he is living in the same complex as a lot of the other boys, so they are looking after him. I think he will adapt quite quick and he seems a really good kid.

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"It's the same with Garang. He has come over from the other side of the world just himself at 18 years old. Him and Oda are ones that the senior boys look after and make sure they are okay.”