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Tough Challenge ahead for Hearts against Celtic

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Hearts face a stern test of their mettle when they travel to Glasgow to lock horns with Celtic on Saturday afternoon. Craig Levein’s men have started the 2018/19 campaign in sensational form and they have soared to the top of the table by winning eight out of 10 league games. But they suffered a bruising 3-0 defeat at home to Celtic in Sunday’s league cup semi-final and that could have dented their confidence. They will be desperate to secure a morale-boosting win on Saturday, but Celtic Park is the hardest place to visit in the land.

Last season Hearts suffered a 3-1 reverse there and they have lost seven of their last eight games against the Hoops.  But they can take solace from their last league game against Brendan Rodgers’ side, which resulted in a 1-0 victory back in August. Kyle Lafferty sealed the three points with a stunning strike on that glorious occasion. The Northern Irishman was lively throughout the game and he went close on several occasions before beating Craig Gordon with a thumping volley in the 58th minute, and Hearts then held on for a famous victory.

(C) Brian Hargadon

However, they are clear underdogs to pull off a similar feat this coming weekend. A sportsbetting.ag review will give you the lowdown on a leading bookmaker, and it makes Celtic the clear favourites to go on and win this game. Meanwhile, you can find huge odds of 9/1 on Hearts, which is a massive price on a team to win a single game. It is a reflection of Celtic’s dominance over the Premiership in recent times, but if Hearts want to establish themselves as genuine contenders to the throne they need to battle to results in tough away games like this.

Levein was left to rue a soft penalty and an error by goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal as Hearts lost to Celtic at the weekend. “We never got to play to our potential, which was frustrating,” he said. “The two body blows we got were in a small way down to ourselves so we have to take that on the chin. We had a similar situation at Ibrox a few weeks ago [when Hearts lost 3-1] where we were looking forward to the game and thinking we’ve got a chance of winning and then contribute to our own downfall.”

The good news is that Hearts were in the game for large parts of it, and they could yet thrive at Celtic Park if they cut out the errors. Hearts have the best away record in the SPL this season, with four wins from five, so hope springs eternal. More worrying is Celtic’s 100% home record: five wins, 10 goals scored and just three conceded in five games. But Rodgers’ men have looked far from invincible this season and they have already lost twice on the road. They will relish the prospect of beat Hearts to close the gap on the league leaders and re-establishing themselves as the dominant force in the country.

(C) Liam Ross

But Hearts could yet spring an upset if they display the sort of confidence that has defined their early season form. Hearts’ biggest concern surrounds the fitness of star striker Steven Naismith, who has galvanised the club with his attacking dynamism since joining on loan. He suffered a knee injury at the weekend, and he has had operations on it in the past, so everyone is nervously waiting to see if he recovers. But Hearts are by no means a one-man team and there is quality across the squad, so they just need to believe in their ability and they could pull off another shock result on Saturday.

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