Aberdeen v Hearts preview: Doubts over forwards | Change of formation? | Aberdeen's injury issues
Hearts travel to Aberdeen on Sunday afternoon for their opening match of the 2019/20 Ladbrokes Premiership season.
It remains to be seen how much of a part he'll play and what type of formation manager Craig Levein will opt for given the talent at his disposal.
The Tynecastle boss wants to largely implement a 4-4-2 style this term, but the Betfred Cup form of Craig Halkett would give him a selection headache at centre-back, while the continued absence of Peter Haring is a huge loss in midfield.
A change to a three-at-the-back system might even catch Aberdeen off guard as the hosts only have three days to prepare for the contest after Thursday night's 5-0 thrasing of Chikhura Sachkhere in Europa League qualifying.
Aberdeen team news
Centre-back Ash Taylor has suffered a hamstring injury and will be out for several weeks. He joins Curtis Main, Michael Devlin and Connor McLennan among the list of absentees.
Possible Aberdeen line-up
Lewis; Logan, McKenna, Considine, Leigh; Ojo, Ferguson; Gallagher, Bryson, McGinn; Cosgrove. Subs from: Cerny, Virtanen, Hedges, Wilson, Wright, May, Ross, Anderson, Campbell, Rogers, Gleeson.
Hearts team news
Conor Washington is unlikely to be fit in time after sustaining an eye injury against Stenhousemuir. Naismith is unlikely to start having just signed and played only 60 minutes of pre-season action, though he may take up a spot on the bench. Haring and Ben Garuccio remain long-term absentees.
Possible Hearts line-up
Zlamal; Souttar, Halkett, Berra; Smith, Bozanic, Clare, Mulraney; McDonald, Ikpeazu, Walker. Subs not used: Doyle, Brandon, Dikamona, Hickey, Burns, Cochrane, Irving, White, Naismith, Wighton, Keena, MacLean, Zanatta.
16 - It's been 16 years since Hearts and Aberdeen have faced each other on the opening weekend of the league season. That contest took place at Tynecastle with Mark de Vries and Andy Kirk grabbing the goals in a 2-0 victory for the home side, who were managed by Craig Levein.
Whether Hearts need to hit Aberdeen on the counter or take the game to their hosts, it feels like the kind of contest where Craig Levein's men will need a big performance from Jake Mulraney. The Irishman will be the quickest player on the park, an attribute that should provide a valuable out-ball should the away side find themselves penned in. And when they do get into promising areas, they'll need a little bit of quality with regards to the final ball. Mulraney will be going up against Shay Logan; no slouch himself and one of the league's best full-backs over the past five years. He has regressed the last couple of years, though, and can be exploited by an in-form attacker.
Hearts' last encounter with Don Robertson came in the form of the Scottish Cup semi-final as the capital side advanced beyond Inverness Caledonian Thistle with a 3-0 victory. The last time the whistler took charge of an Aberdeen match, Derek McInnes' side lost 2-0 to Rangers at Ibrox in late April.
Aberdeen 17/20 Draw 12/5 Hearts 31/10