You can use all the tired old cliches about derby matches but the inescapable truth is that they are bang on – the outcome is entirely unpredictable.
What intrigues me, though, about tonight’s match at Tynecastle is the fact we’ll be watching two teams rebuilt over the summer with both sides having a number of players for whom this will be their first Edinburgh derby.
Until you have played in one, as a newcomer to the city I don’t think you fully appreciate just how much it means to the fans on either side of the divide. As always, Tynecastle will be a difficult, intimidating place and the key as far as I am concerned for Hibs is dealing with the physical presence Hearts have. Craig Levein has built a big, strong side who will be determined to bounce back from the disappointment of Sunday’s Betfred Cup defeat against Celtic by stretching their lead over Hibs to 11 points.
I expect Hearts to come out flying but, as everyone knows, the mood of supporters can change very quickly so Hibs have to go to Gorgie believing in themselves. We also have some big boys who can deal with the physical aspect of the game. Up front, Flo Kamberi has shown he can be more than a handful for most defenders and, at the back, we have to be strong.
It will be interesting to see who Neil Lennon goes with but, for me, these matches are about experience so I’ll be hoping the likes of Paul Hanlon, Darren McGregor and David Gray are fit because these are the sort of players you need.
The loss of Steven Naismith is a major blow for Hearts. They have a big squad of players despite having some injuries but he is a big player for them and has come up with plenty of goals.
Having said that, Hibs also have players of quality and, as we have seen on many occasions this season, they are capable of playing highly-entertaining football and creating plenty of scoring opportunities. If Neil can get the mix right and they deal with the physical aspect of the match, they’ll be in with a great chance of getting the result we all want.