Celtic v Hearts preview: Update on injured duo | signing to make Hearts debut | rotten recent history at Celtic Park

Hearts travel to Celtic Park on Sunday looking to sustain their momentum following last week's impressive showing at Motherwell.

Friday, 23rd August 2019, 2:44 pm
Aaron Hickey after the full-time whistle the last time these clubs met in the Scottish Cup final.

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'Not daft enough to predict a Hearts win...' - Journalists' predictions for Celtic v Hearts

Hearts looked threatening on the counter attack in that match and, considering the strength of Sunday's hosts, it's likely that Levein will stick with a similar system for this game.

Regardless of line up or shape, Celtic are heavy favourites and can give any opponent a hammering on their day, as evidenced by the 7-0 and 5-2 victories to begin the league season.

Aaron Hickey after the full-time whistle the last time these clubs met in the Scottish Cup final.

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The away side can, however, hope the opposition are a little fatigued as this will be their eighth game in 26 days.

If they are and Hearts are at their best defensively then a shock result wouldn't be out of the question.

Hearts team news

The visitors are expected to still be without Steven Naismith and John Souttar for the trip. Levein said the pair could be in contention after the victory at Motherwell but with neither at full fitness they will not be risked. Callum Morrison has just began training again and is another unlikely to make it in time, while Olly Lee is still recovering from a knee injury. Jamie Walker joins Ben Garuccio and Peter Haring as long-term absentees.

Possible Hearts team

Pereira; M Smith, Halkett, Berra, Hickey; Whelan, Irving; Clare, Damour, Mulraney; Washington. Subs from: Zlamal, Doyle, White, Brandon, Dikamona, MacLean, Morrison, Bozanic Cochrane, C Smith, Henderson, Ikpeazu, Keena

Magic number

14 - Hearts have gone 14 games without beating Celtic outside of Edinburgh; the last win coming in the 2012 Scottish Cup semi-final. It's almost a decade since the last time they won at Parkhead as Michael Stewart's penalty proved to be the only goal of the game in a victory against Tony Mowbray's side. There have been 17 games since: 16 defeats and one draw.

Key battle

Craig Halkett is the apple of the support's collective eye at the minute but this is by far the sternest test the centre-back will have since joining in the summer from Livingston. Whether it's Odsonne Edouard or Leigh Griffiths who starts, both of them love a goal against Hearts and with such fierce competition within their own squad the starting striker will be desperate to add to their tally.

What the manager said

“We have a gameplan. The two games with Celtic at the end of last season were helpful and we will look at the footage from them. Celtic have good players and have won their first two league games 7-0 and 5-2. That tells you a story.

“Going out of the Champions League is a blow for them because that is something they aspire to every year. However, they are still in Europe. I know they scraped by against Dunfermline last weekend but they were camped in the opposition half. They still got the result.

“I don’t expect any drop-off in performance from Celtic. I can’t afford to. If we don’t play to our best, then we don’t have a chance of winning.”

Referee

It's the first game for Willie Collum this season featuring either side. Although, you don't have to go far back to find the last game he took charge between the two clubs. That was the Scottish Cup final where the whistler erroneously awarded Celtic a penalty which enabled them to draw level in the 2-1 victory for the Glasgow side.

Odds

Celtic 2/9 Draw 11/2 Hearts 10/1