'As long as Naismith plays, Hearts will win' - Journalists' predictions for Hearts v Ross County
Our online team try their best to correctly predict the result as Hearts host Ross County
There can be no understating the importance of this match for Hearts, even this early in the season. A home game against Ross County looks like a gimme on paper, but it is not.
The Staggies are a much better version of the team that departed the Premiership two years ago and won't fear coming to Tynecastle.
They were impressive in the 3-0 vanquishing of Hamilton last week. Hearts cannot afford to drop points here. The reason is not so much because they would fall behind rivals, more the damage it would do a fanbase already questioning manager Craig Levein and his players.
However, I think Hearts will get the win here. Steven Naismith and Conor Washington will start and that will sharpen up their attack.
I'd also expect Loic Damour to walk straight into the team and he will upgrade the defensive element of the midfield. With John Souttar out, they will revert to a back-four and that suits Hearts better, particularly at a narrower Tynecastle. There is enough quality in this Hearts team to win this match and given the significance of it, I think they'll get the job done. Prediction: Hearts win
Ross County head to Tynecastle on the back of five consecutive wins, while Hearts have had a mixed start, playing well in flashes and struggling in others.
Craig Levein’s team is taking shape nicely in terms of personnel, however, and the addition of Loic Damour, Steven Naismith and Conor Washington to the starting lineup, allied to a return to a back four, should ensure Hearts are capable of halting County’s momentum. Prediction: Hearts win
The Hearts squad is looking stronger by the week and the addition of French midfielder Loic Damour is another piece to the jigsaw.
The overriding disappointment from last weekend's opening-day defeat to Aberdeen was taking nothing from a match they had led with little more than ten to play.
Still, there was enough evidence to suggest the Jambos will pose far more of an attacking threat against teams both home and away this season.
Visitors Ross County are certainly no pushovers and will head for Tynecastle buoyed by a convincing win over Hamilton.
But Hearts have the players to pick holes in the County defence, who can expect a tough afternoon. I believe the Dingwall men will score, but the home side will win by a couple. Prediction: Hearts win
Blah blah on paper, blah blah stronger team. The easiest thing to do here would be to say "Hearts win" and hit "publish article" but football is rarely that straightforward.
If Steven Naismith plays then Hearts are a different beast. But Ross County are no mugs. The attacking trio of Billy Mckay, Ross Stewart and Brian Graham has goals in it, while the Staggies midfield is likely to have wily characters such as Michael Gardyne and Iain Vigurs who've seen it all before.
I think a lot of what happens in this game will hinge on team selection. Hearts are missing a few players and even with the return of Naismith and arrival of Loic Damour, could find it hard-going against a slick County side who looked sharp and well-organised during the Betfred Cup group games. Prediction: Score draw
It is going to be a familiar theme, I think, this season. That theme is 'Steven Naismith'. Not only is he a player but he is an idea, a feeling.
At Pittodrie last Sunday, as soon as he stepped on the pitch Hearts were enlivened, both the players and fans.
He is such a totemic figure that his mere presence sees team-mates buck up their ideas. Despite a comfortable return to Premiership football for Ross County, beating a shambolic Hamilton 3-0, as long as Naismith plays Hearts will win. Prediction: Hearts 2-0 Ross County