'Will be totally different to the Betfred Cup matches': Journalists' predictions for Aberdeen v Hearts
Craig Fowler: Steven Naismith has played just 60 minutes of football since late February. There really seems no chance he'll start the match at Aberdeen. Without him, well... you know. Hearts just aren't the same. Factor in the absence of Peter Haring - another huge miss - and the poor Betfred Cup form of last term's talisman, Uche Ikpeazu, and it's hard to see the visitors getting something out of this. Prediction: Aberdeen win.
Patrick McPartlin: Not the best opening day fixture for Hearts, who have famously struggled at Pittodrie in recent years. The signing of Steven Naismith will be a boost for the Jambos but it's unclear how big a part he'll play in the game, while Peter Haring's absence will also be a big miss. The Dons have looked sharp and clinical in the Europa League qualifiers - Hearts will be hoping Derek McInnes' side's exertions against Chikhura Sachkhere, and thoughts on the upcoming tie with Rijeka, could allow them to nab a result in the north-east. A lot hinges on availability of certain players but I wouldn't put it past Hearts to eke out a draw here. Prediction: Draw
Mark Atkinson: For the first 30 minutes against East Fife, I thought Hearts looked good. Then they totally lost their way. Outside of the back four, they lack leaders when the going gets tough. Peter Haring’s absence is telling. He and Steven Naismith drag the players through difficult moments, so it will be a boost to Craig Levein that the latter available for Sunday. Naismith may not start, but his presence galvanises Hearts. However, I don’t think it will be enough to avoid defeat at Pittodrie. Aberdeen’s tails are up after a riotous win in Europe on Thursday and manager Derek McInnes has assembled a team that has more creativity than before. With Sam Cosgrove in good form in attack, I anticipate an uncomfortable afternoon for the Jambos in the north-east.
Anthony Brown: The post-East Fife outcry over the past week may suggest otherwise, but Hearts start the new season in notably better shape personnel-wise than they finished the last one. This game will be totally different to the Betfred Cup matches, where they had most of the ball and created chances at will, albeit without converting enough of them. At Pittodrie, Hearts will be required to defend well, shackle Sam Cosgrove, compete doggedly, be effective on the counter attack and capitalise on set-pieces. They have the players to achieve all of this, if they apply themselves correctly as a unit. Prediction: Aberdeen 1 Hearts 1
Joel Sked: An away game to start the season isn't what fans would have liked, especially at Pittodrie with the Dons coming off the back of a resplendent win in Europe on Thursday. The downbeat feeling following the Betfred Cup among the Hearts support was somewhat lifted with the news Steven Naismith had re-signed for the club. Why were they so upbeat? He played 19 league fixtures last campaign, missing the other 19. Hearts' win percentage with him was 63.2 per cent. It plummeted to 15.8 per cent without him. It is hard to see that win percentage being improved on Sunday but with him in the team Hearts can sneak a draw.
Neil McGlade: Apart from a match in Glasgow to face either side of the Old Firm, a trip to Aberdeen is the next toughest test on paper. Craig Levein has already hinted he may elect to go with John Souttar, Christophe Berra and Craig Halkett from the start, a strong indication the visitors will be looking to keep things tight with the intent of hitting Aberdeen on the counter. Sam Cosgrove is certainly in a rich vein of form for the Dons and will pose a huge threat to the Jambos rearguard. The signing of Steven Naismith has afforded some renewed optimism among the Hearts support, although it is unlikely he will feature this weekend. Levein will be hoping the exertions of Thursday night's European tie at Pittodrie can play its part and I think it will. I fancy Hearts to take a share of the spoils. Prediction: Draw.