'˜The ball will have to be put down': Journalists' predictions for Hibs v Hearts
The midweek fixtures saw our online team go six for six in correct predictions for Hearts v Hamilton, though they went zero for six in the other game as nobody fancied Hibs to get a result away to Rangers. Now they turn their attention to the big match at Easter Road as the Edinburgh rivals face off against each other for the second time this season.
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Craig Fowler: At the half on Boxing Day I was beginning to think a Hearts win at Easter Road, their first since the halcyon days of the Gary Locke era, was a real possibility. Craig Levein’s side were easily beating Hamilton 2-0 with Steven Naismith making a huge difference to the attack, while Hibs were losing at Ibrox. However, whatever confidence boost that could be taken from that was eroded over the next 45 minutes: Hearts would see Arnaud Djoum and Peter Haring limp off injured (with both doubts for Saturday’s clash), whereas Hibs earned themselves a terrific point thanks to Darren McGregor’s late equaliser. Those developments and home advantage give Neil Lennon’s men the edge, but I still fancy the visitors to nick a draw. Prediction: 1-1.
Anthony Brown: Backing an away win in this fixture (for either team) in recent seasons would have proved a fruitless mission and, given Hearts’ grim away form over the past couple of months, there is little evidence to suggest they will leave Easter Road victorious on this occasion. In the absence of Australia pair Jamie Maclaren and Martin Boyle, Hibs will be heavily reliant on Florian Kamberi to find a way past Christophe Berra and his Hearts defence. The Easter Road side are still not firing as an attacking force but, buoyed by a six-game unbeaten run, they have enough about them to claim a draw, a result both teams would probably accept in the circumstances. Prediction: 0-0
Patrick McPartlin: There are few things Hibs like more than a derby at Easter Road under the lights. They have a decent record in recent times, with a raucous home support often playing its part. Both sides may be missing key men, but there are enough players on both sides capable of creating chances and goals. Lennon’s side appear to be recapturing their form, while Levein’s side men have a tendency to struggle on the road. It’ll no doubt be an end-to-end, ferocious, no-holds-barred 90 minutes but I think Hibs have enough to scrape a narrow win. Prediction: Hibs win
Mark Atkinson: Out of the two Boxing Day results, Hibs’ was the most surprising. I did not expect them to get a point at Ibrox. Hearts obviously went one better and won their fixture, but beating a wretched Hamilton team is nothing to shout about. With McGregor’s equaliser in mind, home advantage and a tendency to rise to the occasion on home soil in big matches, I find it hard to envisage a defeat for Hibs. Hearts don’t travel especially well and their defence line will get a much sterner test from Florian Kamberi and co. However, they have enough experience and strength in key positions - ie Berra, Naismith, Peter Haring, and Oliver Bozanic - to ensure that the second Edinburgh derby ends in a draw.
Joel Sked: No team has won an away fixture since 2014, the season in which both sides were relegated to the Championship so home advantage is clearly important. It also points to a general similarity in quality over these past four and a half years. The teams come into this encounter missing a raft of key players between them: injuries are starting to tally up, niggles are becoming more prominent and there is a weariness after a busy December. With that in mind it is hard to escape the feeling that this will follow suit of the previous encounter and be another battling derby where the ball will have to be put down by the full-time whistle. It is a game which is going to be won by the team who can keep their head, negate any mistakes and hope for a moment of quality. In that case, Steven Naismith to deliver. Hearts 1-0.