Hearts vs Celtic on Wednesday is potentially one of those banana-skin fixtures that can see title-races won and lost.
Therefore, when we pitch up at Tynecastle this week, it’s essential we keep our concentration levels at peak condition. It’s also important to take any advantage we can get to ensure the contest goes as smoothly as possible.
And fortunately, there doesn’t look to be any sort of new manager bounce at Tynecastle either.
Daniel Stendel’s first match in charge yesterday ended in a 1-0 home defeat to bottom-of-the-league St Johnstone. The loss sent Hearts joint-bottom, with only Hamilton Accies behind them on goal difference.
As for the performance itself, Hearts were devoid of any creativity, but their approached certainly changed from what was being dished out by Austin MacPhee and Craig Levein before him.
High-line Hearts look ropey
Hearts played a high line and looked to put their new counter-pressing system into play. The problem for Stendel is that he has a defence that’s far too slow to react when they play so high up.
St Johnstone had several opportunities due to the space between defence and goalkeeper. It’s fair to say Tommy Wright’s side was profligate at Tynecastle, but you wouldn’t expect Celtic to be.
It will now be interesting to see if Stendel continues to embed his counter-press philosophy against a team like Celtic. Playing such a high line when we have players such as James Forrest, Mikey Johnston, and Odsonne Edouard respectively could be criminal for the Jambos.
Stendel brought youth into Hearts yesterday too with both Aaron Hickey and Aidan Keena featuring. Celtic will be hoping that he continues in the same manner on Wednesday night.
The manager stated afterward that the job at Hearts is more hard work than he expected (BBC). What seems evident is that Hearts simply don’t have the players for the type of football Stendel likes to play.
Steven Naismith wasn’t fit to feature whilst Uche Ikpeazu will serve a suspension for the game on Wednesday too. That seriously decreases Hearts’ chances of hurting us this week if Naismith is out. Not having their two main attackers won’t help Stendel’s system be more efficient.
In any case, Celtic will have been pleased not to have seen a soaring level of confidence at Hearts ahead of Wednesday night. It’s imperative that we pick up three more points in Edinburgh to keep our domestic run going.
Hearts may try to get in our faces. However, at the end of the day, their opening-game loss to St Johnstone under Stendel will be a hammer blow for their belief. Wednesday night is certainly looking good for the champions.