Hibs v Motherwell preview: Makeshift defence | Same formation? | Top six aspirations
Hibs welcome Motherwell to Easter Road on Saturday in what will be a big game in the battle for a top six spot.
The head-to-head record is finely balanced this season, with Hibs winning in Leith on the first day of the season and ‘Well prevailing in the return fixture at Fir Park.
Hibs are without seven players as they look to record a fourth league win under Paul Heckingbottom. Midfielder Ryan Gauld is back in training but still some way off first-team action, while wing duo Thomas Agyepong and Martin Boyle are also sidelined. Utility man Steven Whittaker remains out with a groin injury while on-loan Leicester defender Darnell Johnson is nursing an ankle knock.
Centre-back Ryan Porteous is also out while his defensive colleague Darren McGregor sits this one out through suspension, so Mark Milligan will slot into defence alongside Paul Hanlon.
A win for Motherwell would put the Fir Park side in the top six for the first time this season but a Hibs victory would strengthen Paul Heckingbottom’s aspirations of securing a top six spot for the Hibees.
Motherwell have won seven of their last ten, while Hibs have recorded five wins in ten, including a four-game streak in February under Heckingbottom.
The former Leeds boss won praise for his tactical switch against Rangers, swapping a 4-4-2 for a 4-5-1 with Florian Kamberi out wide. He could look to do similar this time if required, but is expected to start with his favoured 4-4-2.
Motherwell appeared to be a club on the wane as they won just one of their first nine Premiership matches, a dismal record for a side which had surprised everyone by reaching the finals of both the Scottish and Betfred Cups last season.
Early exits from the cup competitions seemed to support that view as manager Stephen Robinson attempted to rebuild a squad which had lost important figures such as striker Ryan Bowman, midfielder Andy Rose and defender Cedric Kipre.
Robinson has also had to contend with a lengthy injury list which had robbed him of players such as Trevor Carson, Chris Cadden and Craig Tanner, while changing the style of football Motherwell play, which made them one of the most physical sides in the top flight.
If there was an early struggle to adapt, the signs are that Robinson’s players have now totally embraced the new approach, having lost just one of their last eight league matches – away to Celtic – while the only other point dropped in that spell was at Rugby Park.
A 1-0 win over Hibs, who had comfortably beaten the Steelmen on the opening day of the season, sparked that run, their goal coming from David Turnbull who, along with fellow teenager Jake Hastie, has helped bring a new-found confidence to Motherwell, the pair along with Gboly Ariyibi adding plenty of pace to the side.
Motherwell players to watch
As mentioned, Gboly Ariyibi brings pace and trickery to ‘Well’s left-hand side and could give David Gray a busy afternoon. Jake Hastie and David Turnbull need little introduction - the pair have hit the ground running and will provide a constant threat.
Injuries / suspensions / unavailable
Hibs: Thomas Agyepong (hamstring), Adam Bogdan (concussion), Martin Boyle (knee), Ryan Gauld (recovery), Darnell Johnson (ankle), Ryan Porteous (knee) and Steven Whittaker (groin) are all likely to miss out while Darren McGregor is suspended after being sent off against Rangers.
Motherwell: Trevor Carson (DVT), Chris Cadden (recovery), Craig Tanner (knee), Christian Mbulu (eye) and Ross McCormack (calf) are all missing for Motherwell.
Hibs (4-4-2): Marciano, Gray, Milligan, Hanlon, Stevenson; Mallan, Omeonga, Slivka, Horgan; Kamberi, McNulty. Subs from: Dabrowski, Waugh, Mackie, Bartley, Bigirimana, F Murray, Allan, Shaw.
Motherwell (4-3-3): Gillespie; Grimshaw, Aldred, Dunne, Tait; Campbell, Gorrin, Turnbull; Hastie, Main, Ariyibi. Subs from: Ferguson, McHugh, Frear, Johnson, Donnelly, Hartley, Scott.
Magic number - 12
The number of goals scored in the last five meetings between the two teams - Motherwell have scored four to Hibs’ eight.
Marc McNulty will be aiming to get on the scoresheet again - he’ll have to negotiate Tom Aldred on his way to Mark Gillespie’s goal, however. The tussle between Stephane Omeonga and Alex Rodriguez Gorrin could be a feisty one too.
Motherwell’s last victory at Easter Road came in August 2013 - but the Steelmen have won four, drawn one and lost one in 2019. David Turnbull is ‘Well’s top scorer with eight, putting him on an equal pegging with Florian Kamberi.
Kevin Clancy is the man in the middle for this match and will be assisted by Graeme Stewart and Anthony Cooper. David Munro is on fourth-official duties.