Hearts V Celtic at Tynecastle Stadium : Match Preview

21 February 2014 05:01
Hearts V Celtic - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Holt takes heart from recent form

Hearts midfielder Jason Holt says the bottom-of-the-table side will ignore the naysayers when they take on the champions at Tynecastle.

The hosts have lost every meeting with Celtic this season and were on the receiving end of a 7-0 humiliation the last time the two teams met in Edinburgh.

Despite their lowly position, Hearts are on a four-game unbeaten streak in the Scottish Premiership and will look to use their recent good form to fuel the belief they can take something from the match.

"You can't go into this game listening to other people saying that you've got no chance," said Holt. "You need to go into these games with confidence.

"Saturday is the same as every other game, but we need to pick up some points. We'll keep battling to the very end.

"I think with Rangers not being there, coming to Tynecastle is one of Celtic's biggest games of the season. So if they raise their game, we need to raise our game and we need to match them over every area of the park."

Should Holt feature on Saturday it will be his first appearance since November 9, when he was a member of the victorious Hearts team that upset Aberdeen 3-1 at Pittodrie. He broke his metatarsal in training the following week and has been rehabilitating ever since.

"I'm just glad to be back," said Holt. "I've had two weeks of full training under my belt and I played for the under-20s, so it's going really well. I've had no setbacks yet so fingers crossed. I feel I'm ready for a start.

"There's been a lot happening since I went out. Looking on, it's frustrating at times, though the boys have been great recently. Obviously the semi-final was a massive disappointment, but we can't dwell on that, we need to look forward."

Hearts supporters will be hoping that Holt's return is a good omen in their quest to end Celtic's clean sheet record, with the league leaders going into the match off the back of 12 consecutive shut-outs in the Scottish Premiership.

The only goal that Hearts have scored this season against the Parkhead side came via the boot of their returning midfielder in September.

"I just hit it from the edge of the box and thankfully it went in," Holt added. "Unfortunately, we lost that day but I think we played reasonably well. If we can keep our recent form going then hopefully we can get something out of the game."

Celtic manager Neil Lennon insists Fraser Forster has had to make some top-class saves to set up the chance to break the Scottish top-flight clean sheet record.

England goalkeeper Forster will beat former Aberdeen goalkeeper Bobby Clark's 43-year-old record if he keeps Hearts out for 31 minutes.

The 25-year-old has kept 12 consecutive clean sheets in the league but former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton has been among those to detract from his feats in recent weeks by claiming he is not tested enough in the Scottish game.

Lennon said: "I think Celtic has been good for him, given him a platform where he has progressed to the England squad.

"Regardless of what people think of the Scottish game, he has to make plenty of saves going along.

"It's not just his Champions League form that's propelled him into the public arena down the road.

"He has got better every year, he has won trophies here, he is on the verge of breaking a clean-sheet record.

"It's not as if he is standing idle for 90 minutes and has to produce a save or two. He has had to make some big saves along the way.

"His performances last year in the Champions League were a primary reason why we got to the last 16, and he has kept his focus, his determination and dedication to the position going, to the point where we are talking about breaking clean-sheet records.

"He has got plenty of motivation, he has hopefully the World Cup to look forward to. He must maintain his high standards to make sure he travels to Brazil."

Lennon stressed the potential record was not just down to Forster and admitted his surprise that centre-back Virgil van Dijk had not made Holland's provisional World Cup squad.

"I'm surprised because I think he is good enough to get in a provisional squad of 33, but it's something that he can't dwell on," Lennon said.

"He has played very consistently domestically and he was superb in the Champions League.

"He is only 22 so he has a lot of scope to get even better. But he is what you want in the modern-day centre-half: he is big, has great timing in the air, technically proficient with both feet, has good pace and can read the game very well.

"We knew we had a good player, but it's his temperament that we like as well. He has a fantastic attitude to the game."

Source: PA

World Cup Group G

Belgium 1 0 0 3 3
England 1 0 0 1 3
Tunisa 0 0 1 -1 0
Panama 0 0 1 -3 0
Last updated : 08:44