Talking point: Derby can act as perfect spring for Hearts
They say the next derby is always the biggest and this is very much the case where Hearts are concerned.
Capital rivals Hibs make the short journey across the city to a packed-out Tynecastle for the third meeting between the sides in the Premiership this season.
The Jambos have taken four points out of a possible six from the previous two encounters and will be fully intent on preserving their undefeated record. The two sides are also scheduled to meet at Easter Road over the next month or so.
Earning the bragging rights is what both sets of supporters so desperately crave. However, from a Hearts perspective, Saturday’s lunchtime showdown has a lot riding on it.
Of course, Paul Heckingbottom’s outfit have their own lofty ambitions. They are just a point adrift of their opponents in sixth and are aware that a win in Gorgie – they have not defeated Hearts there since May 2013 – would leapfrog them over Craig Levein’s side in the table heading into the post-split fixtures.
With just six points separating joint third-placed Kilmarnock and Aberdeen and Hibs in sixth, it’s shaping up to be an exciting finale to the season in the race for the European spots.
It’s almost inconceivable to think that Hearts won’t be pitching for Europe until the last day given a start to the campaign that saw the Jambos top the table with eight wins from their opening nine games.
A setback against Hibs, however - coupled with victories for Kilmarnock and Aberdeen on Saturday afternoon - would see Hearts slip eight points behind in the battle for third with just five matches remaining. That would be a significant deficit to overhaul.
Then there’s the small matter of a Scottish Cup semi-final against Scottish Championship outfit Inverness Caledonian Thistle to negotiate.
The last thing Hearts and their supporters want is to be heading to Hampden after a defeat by Hibs. It would hurt their league ambitions and also dent morale heading into the Hampden tie. However, it is worth noting that Levein’s side are undefeated in their past three derbies, having won two of them. The momentum in this fixture is with the home side.
Despite that, it’s amazing what a derby win can do for confidence and that is something players can never be too short of, particularly at the business end of the season.
Following last night’s disappointing defeat at Ibrox, Levein will certainly be hoping for a quick-fire response from his players who still have the chance to achieve great things this year. And what better way to start than against Hibs.