Top-three finish is Hearts' priority, says Alim Ozturk
Hearts are targeting a top-three finish in this season's Ladbrokes Premiership, plus extended runs in both the League Cup and Scottish Cup. Captain Alim Ozturk revealed the club's ambitions ahead of the new league season and declared everyone at Tynecastle is raring to go.
Champions Celtic are the visitors on Sunday as the 2016/17 Premiership campaign begins. Hearts, who defied expectations to finish third as a newly-promoted club last year, aim to secure a place among the top three once again.
They will also prioritise the national cup competitions as they strive to improve on a disappointing record in both tournaments of late. Their Betfred League Cup campaign kicks off in Perth next week against St Johnstone.
Ozturk explained that the Hearts players are fit, sharp and prepared for action on all fronts. “We have to go for top three at least, and we have to do better in the cups. That is our aim,” he said, speaking exclusively to the Evening News.
“We finished third last year and we want the same again or higher. That’s what everybody wants. I hope we can do it again in the league and do better in the cups as well. Everybody looks fit and ready to go. I think we played four really good games in Europe which got our fitness up. Everybody looks sharp.”
Asked whether Hearts’ 17-day break without a match following their Europa League exit to Birkirkara would help or hinder, Ozturk replied: “It can go both ways. Celtic come to us in a rhythm so that can be better. Or, on the other side, maybe we can be better with more rest. We will see on Sunday.”
Meanwhile, Hearts’ Betfred League Cup second round tie against St Johnstone will take place on Wednesday, August 10, at McDiarmid Park with a 7.45pm kick-off. Ticketing details are to be announced in due course.
• Hearts Under-20s face Stirling Albion tonight in the first round of the Irn-Bru Cup at Forthbank. The match kicks off at 7.45pm and cash gates are in operation at the ground.
Prices are £5 for adults and concessions and £2 for under-16s, whilst under-12s go free.
Previously the Petrofac Training Cup, the Irn-Bru Cup sees Scottish Premiership Under-20 teams join the competition for the first time alongside cross-border teams from Northern Ireland and Wales, who enter in the latter stages.