MacDonald: `Every derby is huge`
Hearts may be dead certs to be relegated but goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald has warned bitter rivals Hibernian the Jambos are aiming to take the Leith side down with them.
Terry Butchers' Hibees will be able to send the Tynecastle side crashing into the Scottish Championship with a win in Gorgie on Sunday if 11th-placed St Mirren pick up at least a point against Inverness the day before.
But the Easter Road side are not safe from the drop themselves yet either.
Hibs have won only two games since the turn of the year to leave them just seven points ahead of the Buddies and the demotion play-off spot.
And MacDonald is refusing to rule out both Edinburgh teams dropping out of the Premiership come May.
He said: "Hibs have been on a bit of a bad run. But they have got six or seven points in the bank above the play-off place.
"But who knows? There are still a lot of games to be played and if we win at the weekend and results go for the other teams around them, they could get dragged into it.
"Right now though, we are just concentrating on ourselves."
The Hibs support have spent the past two years facing taunts at every turn from those based across the capital following Hearts' 5-1 success in the 2012 William Hill Scottish Cup final.
But now they are ready to pounce on their chance for revenge on a day already being dubbed "Black Sunday" by some worried Jambos.
MacDonald, though, insist Hibs cannot claim all the credit for the mess the administration-hit Gorgie side find themselves in.
"This derby won't really be what determines whether we are relegated or not," he said. "The 15-point fine and not being able to bring players in - it's a culmination of things that hurt us, not just one game.
"So as for Sunday, we're not thinking about it as the game that could relegate us. We just want to win it for the fans.
"Every derby is huge. For the fans, they have the bragging rights in the city at stake. With the situation we are in, it's a really big game for us. We really want to win it for the fans.
"We've got a good record against Hibs from over the years. Even this year, we've won twice and hopefully we can carry that on."
Paul McCallum is set to lead the attack for Hearts after recovering from an ankle knock.
The on-loan West Ham striker missed last Friday's defeat to Dundee United but is back in Gary Locke's squad.
Hibernian manager Butcher has urged his players to aim for seventh spot in the Scottish Premiership - but he knows they need to start pulling away from the chasing pack too.
A run of six games without victory consigned Hibs to the bottom six, but it also allowed the teams who are battling to avoid a relegation play-off to creep closer to Butcher's side.
And Sunday's clash against Hearts at Tynecastle, the first of two Edinburgh derbies before the end of the season, could set the tone for Hibs' run-in.
Butcher said: "We want to pull away from the rest, there is no doubt about that, and we have to pull our fingers out and make sure we do just that.
"We have huffed and puffed and talked about things and haven't done the work on the pitch that we should have done, that's for sure.
"The boys have certainly worked hard enough, but it's individual errors at both ends of the pitch that have cost us and we want to quickly rule those out and make sure we approach the final seven matches as a united team."
Butcher is still looking up despite the potential to be drawn into a relegation battle.
"We have said to the players we want to finish seventh," the former Motherwell and Inverness manager said.
"To do that we have to start winning matches and start scoring and start keeping clean sheets again. We have seven important games and we want to do well in every one.
"We have not had a great season by any stretch of the imagination, but two wins against Hearts in the final two derbies of the season would go a long way to helping our fans eradicate the memories of what's happened before."
Hibernian defender Paul Hanlon is likely to miss the rest of the season after being told he needs surgery to repair damaged knee cartilage.
Hibs are also without suspended striker Danny Haynes against Hearts but winger Duncan Watmore is back after a foot injury and goalkeeper Ben Williams returns after the birth of his son.
Owain Tudur Jones continued his comeback from a hamstring injury by playing for the under-20s in midweek, but Scott Robertson and James McPake remain short of fitness following injury.