‘There are sources of hope’: Journalists’ predictions for Aberdeen v Hearts

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Unsurprisingly, nobody called a 5-0 defeat the last time Hearts played, but just like the men in maroon our online team have knuckled down and will try to do better this time around.

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Steven Naismith will return for Hearts, making just his third appearance since the last time the clubs met in October. Picture: SNS

Steven Naismith will return for Hearts, making just his third appearance since the last time the clubs met in October. Picture: SNS

Mark Atkinson: Hearts are going to travel north, deploy one striker and put ten other men behind the ball and hope for a point. It’s all they can really do with such a depleted squad due to injuries. It won’t work. Aberdeen are confident, playing well and even the previously misfiring Sam Cosgrove has found his radar of late. He’ll enjoy taking on Aaron Hughes. The Dons to win by a couple.

Patrick McPartlin: Given that Hearts have scored just eight goals at Pittodrie in the last ten years, are decimated by injuries and face an Aberdeen side who appear to have rediscovered their mojo, it’s hard to look past the Dons for this game. Sam Cosgrove is enjoying a purple patch in front of goal, the midfield is gelling and overall Derek McInnes’ side are just a horrible team to face in terms of organisation, grit and workrate. Craig Levein does have a knack of grinding out results when the fans least expect it but I think Aberdeen will prove to be too strong for an injury-stricken Hearts team. Prediction: Home win

Anthony Brown: On the basis of the contrasting form lines of these two teams over the past two months alone, Aberdeen should win this match. Amid the lingering gloom from their 5-0 defeat by Livingston, however, there are sources of hope for Hearts. The obvious one is the return of talisman Steven Naismith, who should ensure Hearts are more aggressive and purposeful than they have been during his debilitating absence. In addition, a team with a core of big characters like Christophe Berra, Michael Smith, Peter Haring, Naismith and Steven MacLean will surely muster a spirited response to last Friday’s humiliation. Even allowing for injuries to three of their centre-backs, Hearts can still field a stronger team on paper than the one which defeated Aberdeen so impressively two months ago, with the absences of Jimmy Dunne, Clevid Dikamona and Arnaud Djoum offset by Berra, Smith and Haring - none of whom played in that match at Tynecastle in October - all being available. Assuming they show the same fight that helped them collect four points from their two matches prior to Livingston, Hearts should have enough about them to make this a tight - and potentially turgid - affair against a side they generally do well against under Levein. Prediction: Draw

Neil McGlade: Hearts have had a good week to stew over the debacle at the Tony Macaroni Arena. It was nothing short of farcical. You’d expect the players to be champing at the bit to get themselves back on the pitch but this afternoon’s trip to in-form Aberdeen isn’t likely to get the supporters’ juices flowing. The Dons are a confident bunch at the moment, particularly at the top end of the pitch. Although everything points to a home win, I fancy Levein’s men to restore some credibility. Draw.

Joel Sked: Following the mauling at the hands of Livingston, Levein will be going into the match at Pittodrie with a belief that first and foremost the team are resolute, robust and hard to beat. The returning Naismith will give the team and support a much needed lift. Aberdeen are on a good run as they march up the table with a settled team, and while they have started finding the back of the net more regularly there is a certain pizzazz still missing. For parents trying to get their child into football, this isn’t a game which will help do that. 0-0 draw.

Craig Fowler: Three draws?! Dear reader, I can only apologise for my colleagues and their terrible predictions. There is little chance of Hearts getting anything from this game. Unless Levein wants to put Haring back at centre-half, which may be the best course of action, the back-line will include at least one of Marcus Godinho or Aaron Hughes. The former struggled mightily against Niall McGinn - the same opponent he’d be facing on Saturday - the last time the teams met, while the latter had an absolute shocker against Livingston. And while things will improve eventually at the other end of the park with Naismith returning, we cannot expect him to be back to his best right away. It will take a few games for him to regain match fitness and sharpness. Aberdeen’s tendency to lay an egg when you least expect it - their last two defeats have been a 3-0 loss in Motherwell and a 2-0 home humbling against St Johnstone - is the visitors’ best chance. Prediction: A comfortable home win.