Following their valiant midweek European exploits Dundee United return to league action when taking on Hearts at Tynecastle.
The two sides enter the contest with deeply contrasting fortunes, for while the Arabs were crashing 4-0 at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle last weeked, their latest opponents were winning by the same scoreline at Hamilton Academical, where Calum Elliot (twice), David Templeton and Kevin Kyle (pen) were all on target. The Jambos then followed that up by defeating Elgin City by the same margin in the Co-operative Insurance Cup during midweek.
However, the Arabs pushed AEK Athens all the way in their Europa League tie on Thursday evening, when drawing 1-1 but still going out of the competition on aggregate, and will be requiring more of that resolve in the capital on Sunday afternoon.
“We are only three games into the season so it’s too early to say, but we want to be hard to beat and make Tynecastle a fortress like it used to be,” Hearts midfielder Eggert Jonsson told BBC Sport. “Sometimes we didn’t manage to do that last season. Jim Jefferies came in as the new manager and the team is now set up the way he wants. Now I think we’re going to be more hard to beat and hopefully we can use our home advantage with the fans to make it a hard place to come.”
“In Athens we showed what we are capable of and we feel we could have gone through – all the boys are disappointed at going out and we should be because we almost made it,” Arabs defender Keith Watson told BBC Sport. “Obviously playing Hearts is going to be a big test because they have started the season really well but our confidence is up again after outplaying a top team like AEK for a while on Thursday. The lads want to improve on last season so that means going to places like Tynecastle and picking up points.”
Hearts Team News:
Hearts could be without as many as nine players as there are currently doubts over Calum Elliot, Marius Zaliukas, Lee Wallace, Darren Barr, Stephen Elliott and David Obua, while Ruben Palazuelos is suspended and Andy Driver and Gary Glen sidelined by injuries.
Hearts (from): Kello, Barr, Zaliukas, Bouzid, Wallace, C. Thomson, Black, Stevenson, Templeton, Elliot, Santana, Balogh, Kyle, Jonsson, Mrowiec, J Thomson, Robinson, Novikovas
Player to watch: Calum Elliot
Star performer last week when scoring twice against Hamilton, and the hosts will be desperate for him to again be out on the pitch this weekend.
Dundee United Team News:
Arabs boss Peter Houston left strikers Jon Daly and David Goodwillie on the bench in Athens in midweek, but both are likely to be recalled, particularly as one of those replacing them, Danny Cadamarteri, is rated doubtful with a muscle strain.
Dundee United (from): Pernis, Dixon, Dillon, Dods, Kenneth, Douglas, Conway, Gomis, S. Robertson, D. Robertson, Buaben, Swanson, Cadamarteri, Casalinuovo, Daly, Goodwillie, Shala, Russell, Banks, Mentel
Player to watch: Danny Swanson
Made a return from injury as a substitute in midweek and his availability is a considerable boost.
Match Facts & Stats
Hearts are on the back of successive 4-0 victories over Hamilton and Elgin, while the Arabs suffered a 4-0 home reversal to Inverness last weekend before drawing 1-1 against AEK Athens in the Europa League, although they still went out of the competition on aggregate.
Hearts – Celtic (A); Dundee United – Aberdeen (H)