The four Hibs selection calls facing Lee Johnson ahead of Rangers clash
and live on Freeview channel 276
The Easter Road side are aiming to arrest a woeful run of form and with several players back in contention, manager Lee Johnson will hope his side can start the resumption of Scottish top-flight football in a positive fashion.
Kyle Magennis, Aiden McGeady, Kevin Nisbet, and Harry McKirdy are all back in contention, while Will Fish impressed during the friendlies against Middlesbrough and Raith Rovers. Martin Boyle is sidelined until the end of the season and Jake Doyle-Hayes and Lewis Miller are still to come back from injury as well.
Stevenson v Čabraja
There is a chance that Stevenson might get the nod over the Croatian at left-back – if Johnson goes with a back four. Stevenson started against Celtic at Parkhead in October – although Čabraja replaced him at the interval in one of four half-time changes.
Stevenson has played dozens of these matches and Johnson might prefer his experience. That said, it’s a while since he’s played left-wingback and if Johnson opts for a 352 – which he initially did against Rangers at Easter Road – then Čabraja or possibly Demi Mitchell might be a preferred option.
Kyle Magennis looks likely to start, specifically as a ten behind a front two which will likely mean a 352 formation or perhaps a diamond or flat 442. Nohan Kenneh could retain his starting role while Joe Newell is likely to start as well.
If Johnson opts for a diamond, that could pave the way for Josh Campbell to start alongside Newell with Kenneh sitting just behind them and Magennis at the tip – and Hibs aren’t blessed with players able to play wide midfield roles at the moment due to injuries.
Campbell has shown himself to be a big-game player but in a 352 with wingbacks he may be the one to start on the bench with Kenneh, Magennis, and Newell getting the nod in the middle.
On top of that, Will Fish impressed (and played more minutes than any other centre-back) during the friendlies. So who starts in a back four, or even a back five? It would seem harsh to rule out any centre-backs but at least one, if not two, will be disappointed depending on what formation Johnson opts for. Such a game would surely call for playing the strongest available team but the coaching staff’s view on the best XI might have changed over the break.
Hibs will also have to weigh up what to do with Mykola Kukharevych – if the Ukrainian striker is fit. The 21-year-old played no part in the friendlies and Johnson said he was hopeful of having the on-loan Troyes forward available for Ibrox and if not, then the visit of Livingston.
With Nisbet and McKirdy forming a fledgling partnership in the two friendlies there is not an immediate need to rush Kukharevych back to action – but he would certainly provide something different up top if he’s fit enough. And at the moment it would look to be a big ‘if’.