‘It’s effectively a free hit’: Journalists’ predictions for Hearts v Inverness CT

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Our online team predict the result for Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final between Hearts and Championship side Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Hampden Park.

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Craig Fowler: Hearts defeated Inverness 5-0 earlier in the season and, seeing as they’re in the league above, go into this cup contest as similarly overwhelming favourites. However, all the pressure is on the Tynecastle side in this one and I’m just not convinced they have the mental toughness at the moment to deal with any setbacks. They struggled mightily against Partick Thistle to get to the semi-finals - doing so only because referee Bobby Madden missed a stonewall penalty in injury-time - and Inverness CT are a better team than their Championship peers. If the underdogs take the lead, the 18,000 or so Hearts fans in attendance will turn on the team and management staff quickly. I hate to say it, but I’ve just got a really bad feeling about this one. Prediction: Inverness CT

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Anthony Brown: It is hard to envisage this being a straightforward afternoon for Hearts. Most Premiership teams would find it difficult to overcome one of the form teams in the Championship in a one-off match on neutral territory, with all recent evidence of such showdowns suggesting Inverness will raise their game to a level whereby they are able to compete on an equal footing with their higher-ranked opponents. The fact Hearts are not in good form and go into the game with negativity lingering from last weekend’s Edinburgh derby defeat doesn’t help the Premiership side’s cause. Craig Levein will rely heavily on the pillars of his team, such as Christophe Berra, John Souttar and Peter Haring, to ensure Hearts handle the pressure of the occasion, while he will be hoping Uche Ikpeazu or Sean Clare can provide a decisive moment of quality to win what promises to be a tight and nervy encounter. Prediction: Hearts to qualify (but not necessarily within 90 minutes)

Uche Ikpeazu netted twice against Inverness CT when the sides met earlier this season. Picture: SNSUche Ikpeazu netted twice against Inverness CT when the sides met earlier this season. Picture: SNS
Uche Ikpeazu netted twice against Inverness CT when the sides met earlier this season. Picture: SNS

Patrick McPartlin: Saturday’s game is effectively a free hit for Inverness. Reaching the last four of the Scottish Cup is an impressive feat, especially for a side sitting fourth in the second tier, but the fact the Highlanders have nothing to lose should make for an intriguing encounter. The Caley Jags are in good form, having lost just two of their last ten games - to the first and second-placed teams in the league - and they know where the goal is as well. Hearts would have wanted a positive result last weekend against Hibs going into this banana skin of a semi-final, but instead lost from a winning position, and saw their rivals leapfrog them in the table. They have a great chance to reach their first final since 2012 but are faced with an Inverness side peppered with former Jambos - and managed by a Tynecastle legend - keen to get one over on their former employers. Hearts will hope Ikpeazu and Haring are passed fit for the tie as their presence should make a difference. However, we’ve seen plenty of Championship sides shock top-flight teams at Hampden in recent years and I think we’ll see another one this weekend. Prediction: Inverness CT

Mark Atkinson: There’s no doubt this has the potential to be a very tricky afternoon for Hearts. However, I fancy them to progress. Last weekend’s derby result has hurt the club and its fanbase, but I actually thought Hearts played reasonably well and can be heartened by the number of chances they created. Inverness are a decent Championship side, but they lie fourth in that division for a reason. They have limited options in attack and are not as resolute in defence as Hibs and Aberdeen - two teams that Hearts have breached in recent weeks. As long as Levein’s men don’t get stage fright, there’s enough quality in this Hearts team to take care of Inverness. It might take a bit of time to get the goal, but ultimately I think it will come and Hearts will book their place in the 2019 Scottish Cup final.

Joel Sked: Levein’s most important match in his managerial career at Tynecastle? Maybe. This is must-win. Fail to progress and the pressure increases exponentially, especially as it is the perfect chance to reach the club’s first final in six years and comes on the back of a meek surrender to Rangers and derby-defeat in Gorgie. The news that Haring and Ikpeazu are struggling is not what fans want to hear. But even still, Hearts are the better team, the bigger team. They will have the vast majority of the crowd and need to make a start which gets them behind the team rather than on them. Inverness have only been beaten once this season by more than a goal. The opponents? Hearts. It gives the sense that nerves will be tested but if the Jam Tarts do score early they need to build on it. Will Hearts be in the final? Yes.

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Neil McGlade: This is the game that matters most to Hearts fans. Although losing the derby last week was a bitter pill to swallow, the repercussions of losing at Hampden would be far greater. There is already considerable unrest among some sections of the Jambos support, therefore defeat to Championship side Inverness could prove to be the final straw. Levein and his players are under enormous pressure to deliver a positive outcome. Irrespective of last week’s defeats to Hibs and Rangers, Hearts should approach this one with a degree of confidence that they can overcome John Robertson’s men by booking their place in next month’s final - whether that be in 90 or 120 minutes or even by the way of penalty kicks. I don’t think most Hearts fans care how they do it. But I just feel that Inverness won’t get a better opportunity to put the final nail in the coffin of a season that promised so much more. Prediction: Inverness win.

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