Hearts v St Johnstone line-ups and team news: Stendel era begins | A number of players injured | Back four or back three?

St Johnstone are the visitors to Tynecastle Park for Daniel Stendel’s first game in charge of Hearts

Friday, 13th December 2019, 11:45 am
St Johnstone will be Daniel Stendel's first opponents as Hearts boss. Picture: SNS

A new era begins at Tynecastle Park on Saturday afternoon as Hearts welcome St Johnstone to Gorgie.

It is Daniel Stendel’s first game in charge since being appointed in the aftermath of the 1-0 loss at Motherwell last weekend.

It was a result which left Hearts languishing tenth in table, level on points with Hamilton and St Johnstone below them.

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Saints are either the perfect or worst opponents for his debut match.

On one hand, they are not very good. Tommy Wright’s men are struggling to score goals and have been defensively poor. On the other, a draw to a team below them would be the worst conceivable start.

The appointment of Stendel has given the Hearts support a real lift and should see a change in atmosphere at Tynecastle. While there will be an intrigue as to to his first starting XI.

Hearts teams news: Zdenek Zlamal and Colin Doyle miss out, as does Steven Naismith who has not recovered from the hamstring issue which forced him off in the 1-1 draw with Livingston last week. Doubts still persist over Aaron Hickey and Aidy White. Peter Haring, Conor Washington, John Souttar and Ben Garuccio all remain sidelined.

Probable Hearts XI: Periera; Smith, Halkett, Berra, Brandon; Whelan, Damour; Clare, Meshino, Walker; Ikpeazu.

St Johnstone team news: Tommy Wright has nearly a full team to choose from. The big miss, however, is former Hearts defender Liam Gordon who is out with injury.

Probable St Johnstone XI: Clark; Ralston, Gordon, Kerr, Booth; Craig, McCann, Holt; Wright, Kane, O’Halloran.

Key clash: In the midfield there will be two talented players at contrasting places in their careers. Glenn Whelan will be expected to lead the Hearts midfield but he will come up against one of the most talented youngsters in Scottish football in Ali McCann. McCann’s ability to get around the pitch, close down and keep it simple is missing at Tynecastle.

Last meeting: It proved to be the end of Craig Levein’s time at Tynecastle. The 1-0 defeat to St Johnstone at the end of October – via a Christophe Berra own goal – signalled change with Levein sacked ahead of the club’s Betfred Cup semi-final clash with Rangers.

Match details: Saturday, 14 December. Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh. Kick-off 3pm. Briefs are available from the Hearts website or from the club’s ticket office.

Referee: Alan Newlands (13 yellow cards in four league games) - Newlands is a relative newcomer to the Premiership. His only previous experience of officiating Hearts was the Betfred Cup clash at Tynecastle earlier this season.

Match odds: Hearts 10/11 Draw 9/4 St Johnstone 13/4