BY DARREN JOHNSTONE – Capital City Press
Robbie Neilson insists Hearts do not have the strength and depth to keep pace with Celtic over the course of an entire season.
But defender Callum Paterson reckons they have the power to flatten them over 90 minutes.
Hearts have returned to form at the right time ahead of Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final visit of the Hoops after collecting back-to-back victories with a 2-0 win over Ross County.
That result keeps Hearts on the coat-tails of Ronny Deila’s side at the Premiership summit but Neilson dismissed any suggestion that his team can mount a genuine title challenge, saying: “We are far, far away from Celtic.”
However, Scotland Under-21 right-back Paterson, who opened the scoring against the Staggies, insists they can trouble Celtic on Wednesday.
He said: “We’ll go into the cup game on a high. We drew against Celtic last time and we’ve had a couple of good results recently.
“We’re back on form and looking forward to it. It’s a good time to play anybody.
“Hopefully we can carry on this streak and keep winning.
“Celtic have a lot of depth in their squad and a lot of money to spend. They’ve got a great bunch of players but we’ve also got a great bunch of players that can do anything.
“We can beat them, you never know what could happen on Wednesday.
“You always have to be open and think you can win the league but they’ve got a massive squad, pick and choose whoever they want.
“They have international, world class players that have played at the highest level in the Europa League, Champions League and in World Cups.
“They have a big squad but we’ll try and do a job against them.”
One player that is sure to cause Celtic problems in the cup tie is Osman Sow. The Swede notched the second goal against County at the weekend and was unplayable at times.
Paterson added: “He’s unbelievable. He’s the most gangly guy you will ever meet in your life, he has the longest legs and the longest arms.
“What he can do with them is ridiculous. His feet are unbelievable and he is great in the air.
“He’s a great guy personally and when you see the skills he can do on the pitch, it’s great.
“He does not let up on anybody in training, even if you’re injured he still plays on. He scores his goals and does tricks.
“He has every attribute you need; he’s tall, strong and good with the ball. He can hold it up or flick it on, he can do everything.
“He’s a great player and if he carries on doing what he does, who knows what the future holds for him.”
Paterson opened the scoring in the 15th minute with a fantastic strike from outside the box and Sow doubled Hearts’ lead in the 67th minute with a close range finish, despite being down to ten men following captain Blazej Augustyn’s red card for bringing down Liam Boyce.
The Staggies travel to Highland rivals Inverness tomorrow night for their League Cup quarter-final and Boyce is hoping for a response from the team.
He said: “We lost the derby recently and came back and beat Aberdeen so we’re looking for the same reaction to this defeat.
“No-one likes being beaten and we’re not happy at the manner in which we lost against Hearts.
“Hopefully we can go out aggressive and win the game on Tuesday. The manager was disappointed we didn’t show up and show our qualities. We all know that and we’ll try and put it right.