Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson admits a first win over Celtic this season is imperative if they are to keep their hopes of finishing second alive.
The Tynecastle outfit wasted the chance to close the gap on Aberdeen to five points at the weekend following an insipid 1-0 defeat at Motherwell.
Celtic head to Gorgie for Saturday’s televised lunch-time kick-off knowing victory would all but seal a fifth successive top-flight title.
But with the difference between finishing second and third estimated to be £250,000 in prize money, Neilson is hoping to boost Hearts’ hopes of catching the Dons by overcoming Ronny Deila’s Hoops at the fifth time of asking this term.
Neilson, who only gave pass marks to Neil Alexander, Liam Smith and Perry Kitchen for their performances at Fir Park, said: “We have to keep striving (to catch Aberdeen), we’ve got Celtic on Saturday and we need to try and keep winning games. We’ll keep trying but it wasn’t good enough against Motherwell.
“It was a bad day for us and it’s a day we don’st want to repeat again. We didn’t create any chances.
“These players can give me more but we need to do it more often, that’s the reason we’re sitting where we are in the league.
“If we could do it more often we’d be sitting higher. That’s what we’re striving for.
“You’re disappointed for the fans coming through, they did so in large numbers and you have to apologise for the performance because it wasn’t good enough.”
Neilson met Hearts owner Ann Budge and director football Craig Levein last Friday to finalise the club’s recruitment plans this summer as they prepare for a return to the Europa League next term.
A June 30 start in the first qualifying round means there is a quick turnaround for both Neilson and the players.
But the Hearts head coach is hoping to welcome some new faces for when the squad resumes pre-season training on June 15.
Neilson added: “We’ve known for the last two or three months the areas we want to try and strengthen.
“It’s a case of getting these players in. I would like to get it done early if we can but as ever it’s difficult to get players in.”
Hearts held their player of the year award ceremony on Sunday night, with versatile Brazilian defender Igor Rossi named as the players’ player of the year.
Midfielder Arnaud Djoum picked up the fans’ player of the year award, while winger Sam Nicholson won the young player of the year prize.