Livi make their shortest trip of the season tomorrow as they head to Gorgie to take on runaway early season leaders Heart of Midlothian at Tynecastle.
The two sides meet for the first time since Valentine’s Day 2015, when the Jambos won 3-2 at Almondvale en route to the Ladbrokes Championship title, while it ends a 12-year wait for a top-flight clash, their last SPL meeting in March 2006 also having ended in a 3-2 Hearts win.
Tomorrow pits the first- and third-placed sides against each other and, while it might be a stretch to call it an early season title showdown, it’s a big game for both sides as they look to continue their fine recent form.
Let’s look ahead to tomorrow’s match!
How have the Jambos done so far this season?
In short, it’s been a stunning start to the season for Craig Levein’s side.
Having said that, it didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts as, having opened their Betfred Cup campaign with a 2-1 win at Highland League side Cove Rangers, the club were found to have fielded an ineligible player and saw two of their three points deducted.
That left the Jambos facing an uphill task to qualify but, after a penalty shootout win over Raith Rovers, consecutive 5-0 wins over Cowdenbeath and Inverness CT saw them into the last sixteen, where they saw off Dunfermline 1-0 to set up a quarter-final at home to Motherwell.
Their Premiership form has been nothing short of spectacular with five wins out of five. After opening with a 4-1 thumping of Hamilton, their first home game of the season saw them beat champions Celtic 1-0 thanks to a Kyle Lafferty goal. 1-0 away wins over Kilmarnock and Motherwell, either side of a 4-1 home win over St Mirren, mean the Jambos head into tomorrow’s clash with a five-point cushion at the top of the table.
What have the two bosses had to say?
Livi boss Gary Holt is excited about his side’s latest challenge in the top flight, telling BBC Scotland: “We have a bit of confidence in the results we have had, so it’s another test for the lads and they can embrace it, enjoy it and test themselves against the best team in the league at this moment.”
The gaffer also spoke of his side’s growing confidence in the Ladbrokes Premiership, saying his players are “not in awe” of the division before adding: “They have got the results that they have merited. They have earned the right. They have got that hunger, the belief and that desire.”
Hearts manager Craig Levein paid a glowing tribute to the Lions’ recent achievements, saying: “It was a great story last season – they had a very small budget compared to other teams in the Championship and their togetherness, team spirit and their work rate got them promoted.
“They’ve won their last three matches under Gary and they seem to still have all that, which is important for them, and we’re under no illusions that it’ll be a difficult match for us.”
Is there any team news ahead of the big game?
Craig Sibbald is back in training for Livi but it still a bit away from a return to action while Ryan Hardie is likely to remain on the bench from the start this weekend after making his return as a substitute against Hamilton. Lee Miller is facing a few months out with torn knee ligaments while Bobby Burns is ineligible as he is on loan from the Jambos.
New Hearts signing Sean Clare will be hoping to make his debut while captain Christophe Berra is still out with a long-term injury.
How have the two sides fared against each other over the years?
The Lions made a storming start to the ‘head to head’s contest between the two sides, winning all four meetings with the Jambos on their way to finishing third in the SPL in 2001/02. Livi opened and closed the season with wins over Hearts, winning 2-1 at Almondvale on the opening day before claiming a 3-2 win at Tynecastle on the final day of the season sealed their place as ‘best of the rest’.
Unfortunately for the Lions, Hearts are unbeaten in the last 16 league meetings since with 12 wins and four draws. Livi’s only success in recent years was a memorable one, though, as they kick-started their run to winning the Petrofac Training Cup with a 4-1 win over the Jambos at Almondvale thanks to a Jordan White double and strikes from Myles Hippolyte and David Robertson.
Livi shipped six goals without reply in their two league visits to Tynecastle in 2014/15 and will hope to improve on that record tomorrow!
What do the bookies make of Saturday’s match?
Unsurprisingly, the Premiership leaders are heavy favourites to make it six wins out of six with league sponsors Ladbrokes offering just 4/9 for a home win. They make Livi a 7/1 shot for a first Tynecastle win in 16 years while a draw is 3/1.
If you fancy a repeat of the 3-2 win that saw Livi finish third in 2002, that’s available at 90/1.
Can I still get tickets?
Tickets are still available from main reception at the Tony Macaroni Arena from 10am-1pm on Saturday morning. Ticket prices are as follows:
Adults – £28
Concession – £20
Full-time students (with suitable ID) – £10
Under 18 – £16
Under 16 – £8
Under 13 – £5
Disabled (inc. carer) – £14 (please note that only 4 wheelchair and 4 carer spaces are available)
How easy it to get there?
The supporters bus to the match is also fully booked however it couldn’t be easier for ticket holders to get to tomorrow’s match with several bus services passing within a short distance of the ground.
Services 23 and X23, operated by our official travel partners First Scotland East, both stop right outside Tynecastle while services 24 and 25, also run by First, stop a short walk away at Roseburn Terrace. Timetables are available here.
Lothian Country services X27 and X28 also stop right outside Tynecastle. Their timetables can be found here.
Haymarket railway station is approximately 15 minutes walk from the ground.
What if I can’t make it?
Fear not, we will have live text commentary on our Twitter feed @LiviFCOfficial from 3pm, while extended highlights, courtesy of Roger That Productions, will be available around 24 hours after the match.
Highlights can also be seen on ‘Sportscene’, which is shown on BBC Two Scotland at 6pm on Sunday evening.