BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
HEARTS midfielder Perry Kitchen has been on the wrong side of winning celebrations once before and insists he will be doing everything he can to prove a party pooper this afternoon.
Celtic travel to Tynecastle today knowing a victory will be enough to effectively land them the Premiership title ahead of Aberdeen, even if the Dons defeat Motherwell later this afternoon.
Kitchen was with former club DC United when they lost the Conference final against Houston Dynamo in 2012, a result that not only ended the Washington side’s campaign but left a bitter taste in the mouth.
It is an experience Kitchen does not want to repeat as Hearts bid to throw doubt over Celtic’s expected coronation as champions.
The 24-year-old said: “It’s a huge game for us. It means a lot for everyone at the club. We never want to see another team celebrating at our ground.
“I’ve been in that situation before, back in the MLS, playing for DC in the Eastern Conference final against Houston in 2012.
“It was the second leg, they beat us and were celebrating on our field. It’s not a good thing to happen – so we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen.
“You never want a team having a party on your pitch. We’ll be doing our best to prevent it.
“Having been through it once, I certainly don’t want it to happen. Back at DC, that was our season over. It was pretty rough.”
Kitchen swapped Washington for Edinburgh in January when he joined Hearts on a two-and-a-half-year deal and insists he has enjoyed an ‘easy adjustment’ to life in the SPFL.
He claims there is not much of a gulf between Hearts and today’s opponents, a theory backed by two previous draws in the league and a spirited performance at Parkhead in the last meeting of the sides.
And, despite losing 3-1 on that occasion, Kitchen believes the gap between the teams can be bridged – especially after watching Atletico Madrid defeat Bayern Munich 1-0 in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final.
The US internationalist added: “Minus the score-line, I thought we had a pretty good game at their place last time.
“It’s just about being consistent and taking chances.
“We know how tough Celtic are to play, so we have to mimic that performance – and win the game.
“We definitely think we can compete with them. We are a good side and getting better.
“At half-time in the last game, we knew we’d had some great chances, scored a great goal and had a couple of other opportunities.
“That’s how football goes sometimes, you don’t score and the other team do very well to take their chances.
“You watched Atletico Madrid against Bayern and it was a similar situation. You can have 25 per cent possession and score the only goal of the game.”