Hearts boss Robbie Neilson insists Aberdeen still likeliest to challenge Celtic


BY IAIN COLLIN – Capital City Press

Hearts hope to go second in the Premiership this afternoon with a win over Partick Thistle – but Robbie Neilson insists Aberdeen remain the most likely to mount a title challenge to league leaders Celtic.

Anything less than a victory for Aberdeen against the Hoops this lunch-time will open the door for the Jambos to leapfrog the Dons into the runners-up spot if they can take all three points from Firhill.

Robbie Neilson League Cup
Neilson continues to play down Hearts’ hopes of challenging Celtic and Aberdeen

Neilson, who yesterday dismissed a link with the vacant Aston Villa job as ‘just bookies odds’, will not tell his players to stay away from news of the score from Parkhead, but remains determined they will concentrate all their attentions on their own victory, no matter what happens elsewhere in Glasgow.

However, despite a run of four league matches undefeated, the Tynecastle head coach is not yet ready to revise his pre-season expectations for the title race.

“We’ll just try to focus on the Partick game,” he said. “We will know the (Celtic-Aberdeen) score when it comes in and, yes, we could go second but the focus is on getting the result for us.

“Everyone wants to be up near the top, but at the start of the season I said I thought it would probably be between Celtic and Aberdeen and I still do.

“And, ultimately, it will probably be Celtic that wins it due to the size of the club, the size of the budget and the players they have at their disposal.

“Yeah, we can be competitive but until there is a balance in the budgets and the playing staff then it is always going to be difficult.

“The start we have had has been great and the aim we had at the start was to be top-six, and that’s still what we want to do.

“We are only 12 games into the season, so there is still a long way to go, there is still 26 games and we need to make them count. We don’t think ‘that’s us made it, we are stable’. We know we still have to work hard.”