Hearts are braced for another physical encounter as they bid to maintain their perfect start to the Ladbrokes Premiership campaign at home to Livingston today.
They moved five points clear at the top of the table last weekend as they edged out Motherwell in an attritional battle at Fir Park. And the league leaders are expecting a similarly competitive match when they welcome a Lions side who sit joint second after winning each of their past three matches.
“They’re doing really well,” said Hearts right-back Michael Smith. “They’ve got their own style and it’s working for them at the minute. But as we showed against Motherwell we can come up against those sort of physical, direct teams, and we’ll stand up to it again.”
Hearts manager Craig Levein is full of admiration for Livingston, who won a surprise promotion from the Championship under David Hopkin last season and have continued to defy expectations in the top flight since Gary Holt replaced Kenny Miller as manager last month.
“I thought it was brilliant the way they got promoted through what I would call old-fashioned hard work, togetherness and teamwork, and they still have that,” said Levein. “So we certainly won’t underestimate them. We know how they play and we know what to expect. Knowing it is one thing, being able to do something about it is something else altogether. But we’ll be well prepared.”
Hearts’ match-day squad today is likely to be along similar lines to that which was listed at Fir Park, with no fresh injury concerns reported. Aaron Hughes could return n after injury, but new signing Sean Clare is unlikely to be involved as he is short of match fitness.