Next up for Hearts is a trip to Rugby Park to face Kilmarnock on Saturday, so here are five things that we think you should know ahead of Matchday 13...
1. To me, to you…
Home advantage appears to count for nothing in this fixture, with both sides regularly winning at the other’s venue. Whilst Kilmarnock have won on their last three visits to Tynecastle, the Jambos have returned the favour by winning two on the bounce at Rugby Park. Sean Clare and Steven Naismith gave Hearts a two-goal lead the last time the two teams faced each other, before Jordan Jones pulled one back from the spot, as the men in maroon held on for a Friday night win. Last Killie victory over Hearts at home? May 13th, 2018.
2. Attack vs Defence
The goals for and against columns make for interesting reading. At home, Kilmarnock have scored eight goals and conceded five. On the road, Hearts have scored five and conceded, yep you guessed it, eight times. Killie are the lowest scoring top six side at home while Hearts have conceded the second least amount of goals on their travels in the league, outside of Rangers and Celtic. The aforementioned 2-1 Hearts win at Rugby Park was the last time this fixture served up more than two goals since a 2-2 draw back in January 2016.
3. The Italian Job
The arrival of Angelo Alessio heralded a new era for Kilmarnock, and with that he established a host of connections to his homeland of Italy. Former Celtic midfielder Massimo Donati joined the coaching staff, as did ex-Lazio goalkeeping coach Marco Garofolo. Alessio called on his time at Juventus to secure the services of goalkeeper Larry Branescu and defender Dario Del Fabro. Plundering the Italian leagues further, Scottish U21 cap Harvey St Clair joined on loan from Serie B side Venezia.
4. Tight at the top…middle and bottom
If results elsewhere go a certain way then a Hearts win on Saturday could see the Jambos enter the top six for the first time this season. A Hibs defeat against Motherwell at Easter Road coupled with Celtic picking up a home victory over Livingston and Ross County failing to gain any points at St Mirren would see the Jam Tarts finish the weekend in sixth, subject to three points in Ayrshire. A few connotations, perhaps, but stranger things have happened…
5. Familiar faces
Steven Naismith doesn’t need much of an introduction but on the off chance that you’re not acquainted with the fledging part of his career then please do indulge us. After spending several years in Killie’s academy, he signed his first professional contract at Rugby Park back in 2002, making his first-team debut two years later, aged 17. 35 goals and 115 appearances later, he joined Rangers in 2007. Fame, medals and caps soon followed, as did a move to the English Premier League with Everton. Now in the Scotland Hall of Fame, Naisy has bagged 20 goals in 48 appearances in maroon shirt, including two against his old side over the past 21 months.
Aaaaaand in the blue corner, from Stockholm, Sweden, standing at 6ft 4in tall, former Hearts striker and current Killie hitman, Osman Sow! An unknown entity when he arrived at Tynecastle back in 2014, Osman didn’t take long to make an impression. His 12 goals helped fire the Jambos to the Championship title in 2014/15 and a further 11 strikes in the first half the following season saw a seven-figure move to Chinese side Henan Jianye. Spells at Emirates and MK Dons followed before Robbie Neilson brought him back north to Dundee United in January of this year. With the summer transfer window set to slam shut, big Oz made a loan move to Kilmarnock and while injury has limited his appearances so far, he could be set to feature against his old club on Saturday for the first time since leaving Gorgie.