'Not daft enough to predict a Hearts win...' - Journalists' predictions for Celtic v Hearts
This is as good a time as any to face Celtic. The match is sandwiched between the Hoops' Europa League clash with AIK and they have shown a degree of vulnerability - certainly in a defensive sense - on the domestic front. Jambos boss Craig Levein's tactics in the past three meetings with Celtic have worked to a degree, with three narrow 2-1 defeats. The question really is can Hearts go one step further and get something from the champions. Glenn Whelan and Loic Damour, the two men entrusted in adding ballast to a light Hearts midfield, shouldn't be fazed by Parkhead. They will make this match competitive, but ultimately Celtic have so much in their armoury that it's hard to see them not outscoring their visitors. Prediction: Narrow Celtic win, with Leigh Griffiths finding the net.
For all of Hearts’ difficulties over the past couple of seasons, they have found a way of competing with Celtic in one-off matches in a more effective manner than any other team in Scotland. They have defeated the all-conquering Parkhead side twice in the past two seasons and run them close in each of their last three meetings. If they can apply themselves in a similarly focused and aggressive manner this weekend, Craig Levein’s team - buoyed by last Friday’s impressive win at Motherwell - should be capable of making this a more tightly-contested game than both of Celtic’s previous league games this season, against St Johnstone and Motherwell. Prediction: Celtic 3 Hearts 1
It wouldn't be too much of a shock if Hearts got a result on Saturday. They've lost every game to Celtic since Neil Lennon came back as manager, but all of those have been tight 2-1 defeats. Celtic could be fatigued having played 120 minutes against Dunfermline last Saturday - while Hearts got an extra day of rest playing on Friday night - followed by the Europa League encounter with AIK yesterday. Also, Hearts look well set up to hit teams on the counter in the new 4-2-3-1 system which helped defeat Motherwell. However, we all know Craig Levein's record as Hearts boss when travelling to Glasgow, and even I'm not daft enough to predict victory. Prediction: Narrow Celtic win
As wacky as it sounds, I wouldn't put it past Hearts to take at least a point from their jaunt west. Despite Levein's latest injury woes, he still has enough quality and cohesion to put out a side capable of at least making it competitive. Celtic picked up a morale-boosting win in Europe on Thursday night but there still appears to be some disharmony among supporters, something that could work in the visitors' favour should they manage to keep things tight – or even assume the lead. The victory at Fir Park last Friday will have done wonders for confidence, something I think the Jambos can build on. Prediction: Draw
Hearts certainly have what it takes to sneak a win at Celtic Park, and given recent events, may be fancied more than usual. But despite the Champions League exit at the hands of Cluj, Celtic will have been buoyed by the victory over AIK last night and have a large enough squad that Neil Lennon could rotate his team and tweak his tactics in order to ensure victory.
Given how Jekyll and Hyde Celtic can be, especially under Lennon, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Craig Levein manages to eke out a narrow win for Hearts here, but I equally wouldn't be too shocked if Celtic "go nap" and win 5-0. However, I think it'll end up in another narrow Celtic victory. Prediction: Celtic win