Hearts v Aberdeen is always a tasty match. Full of aggression and usually decent spectacles, it’s a fixture both fans and neutrals alike look forward to watching and seeing the end result of.
Both sides lock horns at Tynecastle on Saturday. The game has implications for both teams, most notably Hearts. A Hibs victory over Livingston on Friday night would see the Hibees leapfrog their city rivals and Jambos manager Craig Levein will be keen to avoid his side staying in sixth place over the weekend.
A defeat would also would put their top six position in doubt. Seventh place St Johnstone could be just three points behind them whilst eighth place Motherwell could be trailing by just four points with two games until the split. Aberdeen on the other could close the gap on second place Rangers and extend their advantage over Kilmarnock in fourth.
As both teams prepare to do battle against each other, NTOF has taken a look at three clashes that will decide who wins this tantalising fixture.
John Souttar v Sam Cosgrove
Sam Cosgrove will be key if the Dons are to gain any points in Gorgie. He offers a physical presence up front and has proven on 17 occasions this season that he knows where the net is.
He hasn’t been quite as prolific in recent weeks though with just one goal in five games. The forward will need to get back up to speed quickly if he has any chance of succeeding against Hearts centre-back John Souttar.
The big defender is a rock for Levein’s men and is the Jambos’ most valuable asset. His physicality and awareness will provide problems for Cosgrove. Given how the former Carlisle man has played in recent weeks, Souttar may just fancy his chances against Aberdeen’s top striker.
Arnaud Djoum v Graeme Shinnie
Coming off the back of a torrid international week with Scotland, Graeme Shinnie is well in need of a confidence boost. He’ll have his hands full once again this weekend as Hearts’ Arnaud Djoum looks likely to be his main midfield opponent.
Whilst Shinnie is returning from a bad spell away with his country, Djoum has a contrasting tale. His home nation of Cameroon qualified for the African Cup of Nations during the break. The Hearts midfielder played the whole 90 minutes in a 3-0 win over Comoros.
Confidence may play a factor here and Djoum will need to make an impact early on if he is to unsettle the Dons skipper. If he doesn’t, the former Inverness man will most likely return to his old self and boss the midfield battle.
Hearts’ left-back v Niall McGinn
Hearts have been rocked by the news of left-back Ben Garrucio being ruled out for the rest of 2019, following a knee injury in training. With Manchester United loanee Demetri Mitchell also out for the rest of the season, it leaves Levein with no recognised defender on the left hand side.
The news of a player playing out of position will excite Dons winger Niall McGinn. Aberdeen’s number 10 is coming into this fixture full of confidence after two decent performances with Northern Ireland. The former Celtic wideman will fancy his chance against an untested deputy.
The likes of Bobby Burns, Jamie Brandon and Jake Mulraney have all been suggested as makeshift left-backs. McGinn is an experienced player now and will be a real menace to Garrucio’s replacement.
Whoever plays at left-back for Hearts has to settle into the game quickly. If they don’t, McGinn could cause havoc on the right and become the Dons’ key to victory.