Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
As listless in their last five games as they were impressive in their first five, Hearts could not have picked a worse time to come up against a Rangers side that is finding its attacking groove. Steven Gerrard’s side hasn’t always been at its best in domestic competition this season – especially away from Ibrox – but against a Hearts side shorn of its best attacking players, they’ll fancy their chances of another three points this weekend.
The one fly in the ointment for the Light Blues may be their heavier schedule. They’ve often looked sub-par in games played after a Thursday outing in Europe, and they had to play half of their 0-0 draw with Villareal this week with just ten men after Daniel Candeias was sent off. With Craig Levein’s side in need of a boost in form, they could have no better reason to raise their game than a visit from the Glasgow side.
Hearts vs Rangers Prediction: Hearts 1-1 Rangers
The appointment of Gerrard was something of a coup for Rangers but, with no managerial history to go on, the effectiveness of his approach is still under scrutiny. He has lifted the team into second spot in the Premiership, on target to do better than their consecutive third-place finishes in recent years. The major question is how he fares in big games – and with defeats in his only Old Firm game and a cup semi-final, he’s still to achieve a passing grade. Away against a side that knows how to make things tough, Rangers could come partially unstuck at Tynecastle.
Our recommended tip: Match drawn
There’s no doubt that under Gerrard, Rangers have won a lot of games this season that they’d have lost a year ago. Draws in Europe against Spartak Moscow and Villareal have also shown a tough edge, but it’s also worth looking at the games they haven’t won. Points have been dropped against Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Aberdeen – who also knocked them out of the League Cup – and defeats at Celtic and Livingston have indicated that this is a side still finding its feet. If Hearts front up to them here, it could be a testing day for the Bears.
This is the sides’ second encounter of the season, and Rangers hold the upper hand in the head-to-head battle after inflicting Hearts’ first defeat of the season. The manner in which they achieved that was almost too easy, also, with Ryan Kent firing the home side ahead after three minutes at Ibrox. Ten minutes later, Alfredo Morelos added a second, and a finish just after the half-hour from Scott Arfield made it 3-0. After having defender Michael Smith sent off, the Jambos did pull one back on 67 through Joe Dunne, but the game was effectively finished as a contest, and ended 3-1.
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Players to watch: Peter Haring & Alfredo Morelos
Austrian midfielder Haring got his Hearts career off to a perfect start by laying on two goals and scoring one in an opening-day pumping of Hamilton but, as the team’s form has slipped, so has his effectiveness. On his day he’s an industrious, creative midfielder capable of swaying a game with a well-timed pass or run, and Hearts will need him to have such a day in the continued absence of long-term injured Steven Naismith and Uche Ikpeazu.
Morelos is viewed by many Gers fans as the jewel in their side’s crown; rumours abound that the club turned down a substantial profit in rejecting a transfer bid from Bordeaux earlier in the season. There’s no doubt that, in form, he’s lethal. He’s also raw – arguably too raw for a 22-year-old with a few professional seasons under his belt. A player who can at any moment miss a sitter, score a wonder goal or get sent off, if Morelos applies himself he can be a top player. At his age, that process needs to start soon.