Hibs’ failure to win against Kilmarnock on Wednesday meant they were unable to overhaul neighbours Hearts, in the table, but it has added extra importance to the derby tomorrow — if there was not enough riding on it already.
The midweek goalless draw kept the Edinburgh side’s unbeaten run going — which dates back to February 9 — which has seen manager, Paul Heckingbottom, named SPFL Manager Of The Month.
The Englishman knows how big the Hearts game is, and said he is expecting his “biggest test so far” in what will be a titanic battle at Tynecastle.
Speaking ahead of the game, he told the Edinburgh Evening News: “This will be our biggest test so far.
“It will be a different type of test. We faced arguably the most organised team in the league on Wednesday night in the shape of Kilmarnock and not many sides have been that difficult to play against when we have had the ball. They were well disciplined.
“This challenge [against Hearts] is still only three points but it is a derby and there is a rivalry there and it is all about handling the intensity of the occasion.
“Tynecastle is a different stage and a different environment to play in. It will be good to see how my players respond to that.”
If it is played like a regular football match, Hibernian will fancy their chances, with the run they are on meaning confidence will be through the roof for Heckingbottom’s side.
He has them playing their best football for a long time, and fans will not have given up hope of clambering into the top three to claim a Europa League spot.
Although currently six points behind Kilmarnock, in third, and Aberdeen, in fourth, who both have 55 points, it is a big ask for the Easter Road side.
But if Heckingbottom can see his team continue their unbeaten run, and hope it remains in tact during the final games following the split, he knows that it is a very real possibility.
Of course, when the division does split after this weekend’s games, they will be playing all their rivals, which means maintaining the run will be a very tough prospect.
But that is for next week. All immediate thoughts are on the derby tomorrow, and Heckingbottom knows how difficult they are to perform in, given the “hype and intensity” involved.
He said: “Hearts are a difficult, physical team to play against. It will be a hard game. Whether you perform well or not, there is so much hype and intensity and adrenalin involved in these matches.
“That’s why derbies are sometimes too frantic to play any football. “We’d like to think we can get the ball down and play, but the nature of a derby, regardless of what type of team Hearts are, will make it a really frenetic game.”
It will be some occasion tomorrow, and is probably the most important Edinburgh derby there has been for quite a while.
But with a number of incidents in recent SPFL games— by both fans and players — the one thing the game needs, and everyone will hope for, is an incident-free day — both on and off the pitch.
What are your thoughts and expectations ahead of tomorrow’s Edinburgh derby? Can your side leapfrog your neighbours with a win? Let us know…Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!