This is a season defining game for Hearts. They take on Inverness Caledonian Thistle in Scottish Cup semi-final action, a game they are favourites for.
The Jambos have had a favorable run in. Games against Livingston and junior side Auchinleck Talbot at Tynecastle came before a quarter final tie against Partick Thistle. Craig Levein’s men struggled against the Championship side, taking them to a replay to secure progression.
They take on a Inverness side who are doing well in Scotland’s second tier. It’s a potential banana skin for Levein, one he could do without, with fans already unhappy with him after last week’s Edinburgh derby defeat.
If the boys in maroon fail to win this, it will fully kill Levein’s relationship with the fans. It’s already hanging by a thread for some supporters, others already turning against him.
The Jambos have been poor for weeks and Levein has to think of something different against the Highlanders.
We’ve taken a stab at who we think will start for Hearts against John Robertson’s men.
The starting XI
Uche Ikpeazu is a doubt ahead of the game, but the Hearts forward should still make the match. Levein likes to play the big striker on his lonesome, but he should opt for two up front against Inverness. A 4-4-2 formation against a Championship side gives the Jambos the most balance and attacking power.
In between the sticks will be Zdenek Zlamal. Michael Smith should keep his place at right-back with John Souttar and Christophe Berra in central defence. Bobby Burns done well at left-back against Hibs, so he should get another chance to shine in that position.
Sean Clare will line-up on the right hand side of midfield and Jake Mulraney on the left. Peter Haring is also a doubt for the game, and with two midfielders instead of three, there will be some obvious changes.
The Austrian should be fit, however. Haring and Arnaud Djoum are the two strongest central midfield options, with Oliver Bozanic coming in for Haring, should the Austrian not be fit enough to play.
Forward Aidan Keena has made cameo appearances for a number of weeks now. He should be given the nod against Inverness. The striker has already played and scored against them this season, looking like Hearts’ most dangerous striker outwith Ikpeazu. A combination between the two of them would be deadly.
Levein can’t afford to lose this. They’ve been awful in the league recently and must avoid Scottish Cup embarrassment. The ex-Scotland boss needs his players to turn up, for if they don’t, the writing could be on the wall for his second spell as Hearts boss.
Here is our predicted Hearts starting XI in list form.