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Something has to give for Hibs in Edinburgh derby

Only a victory at Tynecastle can guarantee a top six spot for Hibs.

Insight: Something has to give for Hibs in Edinburgh derby SNS Group
Edinburgh derby: Must win game for Hibs.

It is the fixture that has become the one that neither side can afford to lose.

Two meetings and two goalless draws between Edinburgh’s famous rivals speaks as much to the nerves of capital derby day as it does to the quality of goalkeeping that has been on display.

Now, for Hibernian certainly, something has got to give.

While Heart of Midlothian ride high in the Premiership table ready to confirm their finish in third place, across the city only a victory can guarantee the Easter Road side a place in the top six.

As far as final fixtures before the split go, this is a cracker.

Knowing the pressure that comes with a derby defeat, both managers were adept at playing down expectation ahead of the weekend.

Robbie Neilson is fond of insisting that Hearts are expected to win every game they play and that this match will be no different in that regard.

But Neilson knows well that his relationship with the supporters at Tynecastle has been defined by derby results in the past. His side let a 2-0 lead over Hibs slip in the 2016 Scottish Cup and Alan Stubbs’ team went on to lift the trophy for the first time since 1902.

Shaun Maloney is far newer to the game but showed in his first derby in charge that he can adopt a pragmatic plan to suit the high octane occasion.

This time around there is no Christian Doidge to offer the direct out ball though; the Welshman is injured and out of the squad. It will fall to the youthful trio of Elias Melkerson, Chris Mueller and Sylvester Jasper to get at the Hearts defence.

Maloney will fancy that the quick and tricky Mueller and Jasper can take turns at taking on Nathaniel Atkinson at right back and get some joy down the flanks. They will aim to feed the dangerous but inexperienced Norwegian striker Melkerson.

As the only side outside of the top two to achieve a level of consistency this term, Hearts will hope to be able to dominate the ball and create chances through Barrie McKay.

The attacker is given freedom to roam between the lines and pick out his striking colleagues Ellis Simms and Liam Boyce, who will aim to occupy the Hibs centre backs.

Stopping McKay could be key to the visitors repelling their hosts, frustrating the crowd, and gaining a foothold.

Looming over the whole contest will be next week’s meeting between the two sides in the Scottish Cup semi-final.

Doubtless the second game will be well out of mind for the professionals on the pitch on Saturday afternoon, but to the outside observer this will feel like part one of a double header.

The top six, bragging rights, momentum, European qualification and then a shot at silverware are all up for grabs over the next seven days.

That alone is reason enough for nerves – but there is more than enough evidence in these squads to suggest that Hearts and Hibs can finally produce the goals and excitement to ignite the capital rivalry once more.