Scottish Premiership: First Edinburgh derby of season tops bill

Scott Allan rifled the opener when Hibs last beat Hearts at Easter Road in March 2018

The first Edinburgh derby of the season sits proudly atop this weekend's Scottish Premiership fixture list.

Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian do battle in Leith on Sunday lunchtime in an Easter Road blockbuster.

Team news

Hibernian captain Paul Hanlon played in a development match during the week and the defender could return in Sunday's Edinburgh derby but Kyle Magennis, Aiden McGeady, Demi Mitchell, Kevin Nisbet, Lewis Stevenson and Jair Tavares are all missing.

Martin Boyle, who has returned to Hibs six months after leaving to join Al-Faisaly in Saudi Arabia, will be paraded to the fans pre-match.

Hearts will assess defender Stephen Kingsley after he trained with the squad on Friday. Nathaniel Atkinson is available following a bout of illness.

Pick your Hibernian XI

Choose your starting XI. It's up to you how to approach it - you could go for the team you WANT the manager to pick or the one you THINK he will.

Pick your Heart of Midlothian XI

Choose your starting XI. It's up to you how to approach it - you could go for the team you WANT the manager to pick or the one you THINK he will.

Hibs out to end derby drought

Over four years have passed since Hibs won an Edinburgh derby on their own patch. You remember that game, right? The 'natural order' derby?

March 2018. Craig Levein's comments about "restoring the natural order" to the capital city. Neil Lennon's rebuke. Scott Allan caressing home a sweet half-volley from the edge of the box. Jamie Maclaren ransacking Steven Naismith to drive in a second Hibs goal. The Easter Road singing section unfurling a huge green-and-white banner with 'natural order' daubed across it.

These were heady days for Lennon's side and the bumper crowds that flocked to savour John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Allan conducting the orchestra from midfield.

Even allowing for the pandemic, and Hearts' year in the Championship, the relatively positive derby record enjoyed under Lennon and Alan Stubbs has since been dynamited.

Of the 13 games played since the 'natural order' affair, Hibs have won two, both at Tynecastle. Their most recent city triumph came on Boxing Day 2019.

They have lost two Hampden semi-finals to Robbie Neilson and Hearts. The latter, in April, came a week after defeat in Gorgie consigned Hibs to the bottom six and, ultimately, Shaun Maloney to the sack.

Hibs are nursing those painful wounds now, gouged by their old rivals. Lee Johnson, the former Hearts midfielder recently installed as Easter Road manager, has big players injured, new signings to integrate and a style of play that will take time to calcify.

Neilson's troops looked a little ring-rusty themselves against Ross County but they have menace in spades and plundered two lovely goals in the second half. Their derby form and pedigree makes them favourites.

As compelling a rivalry as this is, neutrals have long despaired at the football on show when Edinburgh's green and maroon collide. Derbies have too often disintegrated into thud-and-blunder slugfests.

Neither team's supporters will care about attractive football, so long as their team prevails. For there are few more beautiful things to a fan than a derby victory.

A sold-out Easter Road will provide the backdrop. But the 'natural order' favours Hearts once more.

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