Hibs v Livingston preview: Stevie Mallan out | David Gray returns | Goalie issues?

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Hibs welcome Livingston to Easter Road tomorrow looking to make it five games unbeaten after wins over Hamilton and Celtic and draws with Rangers and St Mirren.

The West Lothian side come to Edinburgh hoping to seal a December double over the Capital clubs. Gary Holt’s men were in devastating form as they thrashed Hearts 5-0 at Almondvale last Friday night.

Ryan Porteous grapples with Dolly Menga in the first meeting between the two sides this season. Picture: SNS Group

Ryan Porteous grapples with Dolly Menga in the first meeting between the two sides this season. Picture: SNS Group

The newly-promoted club have very much been the surprise package of the season, having recorded wins over Hearts, Hibs and Rangers at the Tony Macaroni Arena and are currently in the top six of the table on goal difference.

Neil Lennon’s men haven’t lost in their last four games, after a wretched winless run, and despite injuries to key players the Easter Road side appear to have rediscovered their mojo to a certain extent.

Livi don’t travel particularly well - the bulk of their 28 points have come at home - while Hibs have lost just two competitive home games in the last year. However, the Lions are a well-organised team and will be a stern test for a physically and mentally drained Hibs team playing their third game in six days.

The fixture pile-up could lead Lennon to shuffle his pack in a bid to keep players fresh for the Boxing Day trip to Ibrox to face Rangers again. Midfielder Mark Milligan could come in for Stevie Mallan; the deadball expert has been ruled out with a groin strain picked up in the 0-0 draw with Steven Gerrard’s side midweek.

However, club captain David Gray will be named in the squad after recovering from a muscle problem.

Adam Bogdan will continue in goals after coming on as a first-half substitute for Ofir Marciano against Rangers but in terms of back-up, injuries to the Israeli international and third-choice ‘keeper Ross Laidlaw has prompted a recall for Polish prospect Kevin Dabrowski from his development loan with Lowland League side Civil Service Strollers.

Up front Oli Shaw could be handed a break, with Martin Boyle available as well as Jamie Maclaren while Lewis Allan, Jamie Gullan and Sean Mackie all stand a chance of some involvement.

Livingston are likely to field a similar, if not identical line-up to the eleven that defeated Hearts. It’s undoubtedly their strongest starting team but with Scott Robinson and Craig Sibbald on the bench they have two attack-minded midfielders who could make an impact in the second half if called upon.

Injuries / suspensions / unavailable

Hibs: Goalkeeper Ofir Marciano is ruled out with a calf problem, while fellow ‘keeper Ross Laidlaw is still recovering from a thigh tear. Winger Thomas Agyepong (thigh), midfielder Marvin Bartley (hamstring), centre-half Paul Hanlon (leg) and wing-back Charalampos Mavrias (hamstring) remain sidelined while Mallan misses out with that groin injury.

Livi: Gary Holt has a full squad to choose from barring Raffa De Vita and Lee Miller, who are both nursing knee injuries.

Possible teams

Hibs (4-1-2-1-2): Bogdan, Whittaker, Ambrose, Porteous, Stevenson; Milligan, Hyndman, Slivka, Horgan; Kamberi, Boyle. Subs from: Dabrowski, McGregor, Gray, Nelom, Mackie, Shaw, Maclaren, Gullan, Allan.

Livi (3-5-2): Kelly, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Lawless, Pittman, Byrne, Jacobs, Cadden, Menga, Hardie. Subs from: Stewart, Sibbald, Hamilton, Lawson, Robinson, Lamie, Saunders.

Magic number - 47

The number of goals scored in all previous games between the two sides at Easter Road - including a 7-0 win for Hibs and two 3-0 victories for Livi. There have been no 0-0 matches at Easter Road... yet.

Key battle

Ryan Hardie was a constant threat against Hearts and both Efe Ambrose and Ryan Porteous will have their work cut out keeping the on-loan Rangers kid quiet.

Livingston danger men

Dolly Menga is an uncompromising forward whose physical style can unsettle unsuspecting defenders. At the back, Craig Halkett is a rock in defence but loves to get forward and support the attack while in midfield Scott Pittman, Keaghan Jacobs and Shaun Byrne all regularly impress for the West Lothian side - indeed, Pittman and Byrne were the scorers earlier this season when Livingston beat Hibs 2-1 at Almondvale.

Key stats

Livingston have only won once on the road this season - away to St Mirren on August 25 - and have scored just six away goals this term. Of the 28 matches played between the two teams, just two have ended in draws.

Referee

Greig Aitken is the man in the middle for this match. The 41-year-old whistler has taken charge of 17 Livingston games - more than any other team - with the Lions winning five, drawing five and losing seven.

In those matches he has awarded three penalties, shown four red cards and booked 30 players.

Aitken has only been the man in the middle for eight Hibs games with the Easter Road side winning five and drawing three. He has shown just 12 yellow cards and awarded two penalties in those matches.

He is assisted by Dougie Potter and Calum Spence, with Willie Collum on fourth-official duties.