The Evening News sports team give their take on Hearts' home clash with Dundee United in the Betfred Cup group clash this evening
Hearts have had their scrapes with Betfred Cup since the return of the group phase. It did for Ian Cathro two years ago and it made Craig Levein's life trickier than desired last term.
In facing Dundee United team managed by the Jambos' former head coach Robbie Neilson, this tie has a hazard warning on it for the hosts.
No Peter Haring, nor Steven Naismith, and Jamie Walker is likely to only make the bench at best. This fixture doesn't sit well with me from a Hearts perspective. I'm far from convinced they'll win. Prediction: Draw, with the visitors taking it on penalties.
Aside from their aberration away to Raith Rovers (and, of course, the team sheet error against Cove Rangers!) Hearts dealt reasonably well with the Betfred Cup group stage last summer, certainly in comparison to the previous summer when they crashed out in humiliating fashion under Ian Cathro.
Tonight’s match is likely to be their toughest of this year’s renewal and given the fact several key players are not fully fit, it has all the makings of being a closely-contested one. The hosts’ superior quality should prevail though. Prediction: Sean Clare to score in a narrow Hearts win.
I'm not entirely confident about this. There's still an injury hangover from last season with Peter Haring and Aidy White definitely out, Aidan Keena and Uche Ikpeazu not at 100 per cent, and Jamie Walker a doubt for the match. The team is also missing Steven MacLean, who's suspended, and Steven Naismith, who is not expected to join the club until August.
How much will have changed from last season? Then again, United are still in the process of building their squad with key signing Lawrence Shankland having only joined last week, and the top of the Championship remains much weaker than the middle of the Premiership. Prediction: A Hearts win, but not a convincing one.
These Betfred Cup group games always prove so difficult to predict, particularly when its a Premiership v Championship affair. You’re as good as tossing a coin.
Hearts, at home though, are always a safe bet. They will be missing key figure Peter Haring, with a few others also expected to sit this one out.
Despite United having secured the services of Lawrence Shankland and Robbie Neilson eager to get one over his former club, I still think the hosts will have enough to prevail.
It won’t be pretty but I’ll say 1-0 Hearts. Prediction: Hearts win
There's a sense of "anything could happen" with any football match, but the chances of an unusual result seem heightened during the Betfred Cup group stages when teams are still gelling and new players finding their feet. Pre-season is rarely a good indicator - Hearts put seven past Shelbourne without reply but were then edged out by Glenavon.
Dundee United's main aim must surely be getting out of the Championship and back into the top flight but I still think they'll be taking the cup competitions seriously. Both teams have added intriguing players to their ranks over the summer - Hearts with Craig Halkett and Conor Washington, United with Lawrence Shankland and the return of Deniz Mehmet, which should contribute to an interesting encounter. I think there will be goals, with Hearts winning either narrowly in normal time, or on penalties. Prediction: Hearts win