Craig Levein has challenged his Hearts players to try and secure themselves a place in his Scottish Cup final team by finishing the league campaign with a flourish.
Hearts, who sit sixth in the Ladbrokes Premiership, have five post-split fixtures to play before facing Celtic at Hampden in the season’s showpiece match on May 25.
Levein is hopeful that the incentive of playing a part in the final will bring out the best in his team for their upcoming league matches against Rangers, Hibs, Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Celtic.
“There’s a fair bit of water to flow under the bridge before the final so in the interim period we’ll be focused on being at our best and trying to pick up as many points as we can,” the manager told the Evening News. “I would think it will give us an extra spring in our step because there’ll be competition for places. I’m hoping that between now and the cup final we get some really good performances in the league because there are certainly places available for the people who want them the most.”
Hearts are hoping to pick up their first points of the post-split season against second-place Rangers at Tynecastle this Saturday. The Edinburgh side have lost their past six matches against the Ibrox team by an aggregate score of 15-4, and Levein is well aware their recent form in this fixture hasn’t been good enough.
“I don’t think we’ve done ourselves justice against Rangers,” he said. “They’re the team we’ve made most mistakes against. In the three matches this season we haven’t performed at a consistent enough level to take the points. We’ve shot ourselves in the foot on numerous occasions against them by giving away cheap goals so the first thing I’d be looking for this weekend is to make sure we don’t do any damage to ourselves.”
Meanwhile, Levein’s Hampden hearing over an allegation of misconduct yesterday was adjourned. A new date for it to resume has yet to be arranged.
Levein was called after an incident at an under-18 Edinburgh derby match in February, although the nature of the flashpoint has not been disclosed.
Levein, who attended in his role as director of football, was charged with breaching Disciplinary Rule 207, which states that “no official shall commit misconduct at a match”.