'It'll either be chaotic or comatose, but it's exciting' - Journalists' predictions for Hibs v Hearts in the Edinburgh derby
I've changed my mind so much on this fixture over the past few days. At the beginning of the week, I was preparing to back Hearts at 7/4. Yes, Craig Levein is under more pressure at Tynecastle than he would find at the bottom of the ocean and, yes, Hearts shipped two goals at home to Hamilton and yes, they have 34682763788 injuries and yes, the Hearts defence is struggling to distribute the ball, but ... but ... Hearts have been scoring goals in this malaise, have the wildcard in exciting Japanese Ryo Meshino and Levein, generally speaking, knows how pull an iron from the derby fire when he needs to.
And boy, does he need to. However, Hibs are at home, have the best creative midfielder between the two clubs in Scott Allan, have got the potential to be an extremely dangerous side when Allan, Florian Kamberi and Daryl Horgan click, and their head coach Paul Heckingbottom, although under some pressure himself, doesn't have his patrons demanding his skull on a platter outside Easter Road. Home win, right? 6/4 look decent odds.
But then I remembered that Hibs couldn't beat one of the most disorganised St Johnstone teams I've seen in years, can't defend effectively themselves either, have ghost-like midfielders when it comes to doing the defensive work right now and recently have resembled the sort of team that is cobbled together when you panic on Football Manager and sign ten new players and chuck them together, desperately hoping for a goal, let alone a win.
In short, this is a match between two struggling teams who both desperately need some sort of lift. It'll either be chaotic or comatose, but it's the exciting, exhilarating Edinburgh derby, so you have to watch it. As for a prediction, let's call it a draw. 23/10 for the crapshooters among us. Prediction: Hopefully a score draw, not a bore draw.
As the home team, the onus is on Hibs to have the majority of the possession and make things happen, but there has been no evidence so far this season that they have the confidence or the right team set-up to do that.
If they don’t seize some control of the match early on, the home support, already exasperated by their team’s grim start to the campaign, are likely to get edgy.
Hearts, by contrast, will probably feel slightly liberated playing away from a tension-riddled Tynecastle, where they haven’t looked comfortable for some time.
Their best performance and result of the season came in the Betfred Cup tie away to Motherwell five weeks ago when Craig Levein’s back was against the wall and nobody fancied them to prevail.
Even allowing for their fitness issues, Hearts have the stronger squad overall and if Steven Naismith and / or Ryo Meshino start the game, and the defence can rediscover some assurance, the visitors should win. Prediction: Hibs 0 Hearts 2
Hibs are poor. Hearts are poor.
Both managers are under severe pressure.
Neither squad has any confidence.
Edinburgh derbies are notoriously guff.
Nothing of note will happen. Prediction: 0-0.Neil McGlade
You’d have to turn back the clock more than five years to find both Capital clubs in such dire straits.
Rarely has an Edinburgh derby drawn so much pessimism - from both sets of supporters - prior to a ball being kicked.
But that is the situation this weekend. Both squads have the individuals capable of turning on the style, Hearts more so, but I don’t see this being anything other than a mind-numbing borefest.
The passion from the stands will be in full flow but that’s as far as the excitement goes in Leith on Sunday.
A win for either side will merely paper over the cracks but the visitors will at least have the early-season bragging rights to boast. Prediction: Hibs 0-1 Hearts.Patrick McPartlin
Much of the pre-derby chat in previous seasons has centred around the folly of expecting a good game when both teams are on form. Form means nothing in derbies.
Hibs have twice been thwarted by Hearts "against the run of play" in the last 18 months - a 2-1 loss at Tynecastle to bring a 12-game unbeaten run to an end, and a late draw at Easter Road while Hibs were on a nine-game unbeaten run. Hearts certainly haven't had their problems to seek this season between injuries, home form and the odd Tynecastle protest, but they do seem to have Hibs' number when it comes to knocking their rivals down a peg or two.
So why can Hibs win? Because it's all got to click at some point for Paul Heckingbottom's side. There were hints of cohesion in the first half against Kilmarnock - if the coaching staff can build on that then there's no reason why things can't go well for the hosts.
Ryan Porteous is in line to make his first appearance in an Edinburgh derby. You can imagine the boyhood Hibee being that pumped up that it'll take both kitman Tam McCourt and goalkeeping coach Alan Combe to restrain him in the moments immediately before kick-off.
Florian Kamberi has yet to score from open play in a derby. Daryl Horgan probably fancies the chance to cue a bit more pandemonium. It's been a while since Stevie Mallan arced one of his trademark free kicks into the back of the net, and Melker Hallberg will be keen to make a good impression on his home debut.
Current form suggests a scrappy, tense, cagey game. History dictates that we should expect the unexpected in Edinburgh derbies. Prediction: Hibs win
There is a certain fascination about this Sunday's game.
As those wear green or maroon watch on from between their fingers, the rest of Scottish football will likely be transfixed hoping for 90 minutes of calamity, entertainment, booing and catcalling. This game is likely to go one of two ways.
Both sets of players could be so nervous of actually doing anything that it becomes a game where nothing happens.
Conversely, both sets of players could be so nervous that it leads to mistakes and goals. Lots of them (mistakes, maybe goals).
If Hearts welcome back Joel Pereira, Michael Smith and Steven Naismith, with Ryotaro Meshino handed a starting spot, it will provide a huge boost. There is a good squad at Tynecastle.
Hibs, in terms of the make up of their own squad, have bigger issues. A lot has been made of the defensive mistakes and lack of goals in attack but the big problem is in midfield.
Any which way, Sunday is going to be brilliant. Prediction: Hearts win