BY DARREN JOHNSTONE @CCP_Sport
Hearts goalkeeper Neil Alexander insists Robbie Neilson’s side can pile more pressure on Celtic tomorrow – despite admitting that a hostile Tynecastle brings out the best in the Hoops.
Ronny Deila’s side are currently on a seven-game winning run in Gorgie, with the Edinburgh club conceding a huge 26 goals – scoring two – during that period.
And even though the Hearts fans try to aid their team by making the atmospheric ground as intimidating as possible, the former Rangers goalkeeper reckons Celtic thrive in that kind of environment.
He said: “I think it’s obviously a big game for Celtic.
“Apart from the Rangers game, you look at who the biggest clubs in Scotland are – and I’d like to think Hearts are right up there.
“I think folk like coming to Tynecastle, with its great atmosphere and great noise.
“And obviously it’s just as big a game for them as it is for us.
“So they probably lift their game a wee bit, knowing it’s going to be a tough test.
“There are certain games where you lift yourself for the occasion. Where you have to lift yourself, because it’s such an important fixture.
“They probably enjoy that.
“But past records and goals against will be put out of our minds as soon we cross that white line.
“Hopefully we can put an end to that run on Sunday. We’ll just treat it like any other game.”
Celtic manager Deila has come under pressure from his own fans, who have even started a online petition calling for his sacking, in the wake of last weekend’s 2-1 home loss to Motherwell.
The Parkhead club still lead the Premiership by one point over Aberdeen but Alexander reckons Hearts, who are currently third in the league, can take belief from the Steelmen’s surprise win.
He added: “On the back of a disappointing result last week, they’ll be eager to bounce back and put that right.
“But what Motherwell did just gives other clubs confidence that you can go and beat Celtic, even at Parkhead. They’re not unbeatable.
“So we’ll take confidence from that. If Motherwell can do it at Parkhead, we can do it at Tynecastle.
“So it does give you a bit of belief that it can be done.
“But we knew that already. If we go and play the way we can, with the crowd behind us and getting a wee bit of luck on the day, then we can get a good result against Celtic.”
Alexander admits his team-mates will need to keep cool heads for the whole 90 minutes if they are overcome Celtic after striker Juanma was sent-off in last weekend’s draw at St Johnstone for head-butting David Wotherspoon.
He added: “It just goes to show how important it is.
“Saturday there we had an hour with ten men and it was incredibly difficult.
“We had our backs to the wall, we rode our luck at times.
“And that’s how it is going to be when you do lose a man.
“But we showed great resilience, we have trained for things like this.
“And I have to give huge credit to the boys in front of me for the defensive job they did.”