HEARTS head coach Robbie Neilson reckons this weekend’s top-of-the-table clash with Rangers is the biggest match in Scottish football this year.
Championship leaders Hearts lead Ally McCoist’s side by six points ahead of tomorrow afternoon’s eagerly-awaited televised encounter.
And, with Celtic expected to face little resistance in their bid to rack up a fourth straight top-flight title triumph, Neilson insists the importance of the sell-out Tynecastle showdown eclipses any fixture in the Premiership.
Neilson said: “It’s a huge game in Scottish football. It’s probably the biggest one so far this year, even taking the Premiership into account.
“It’s two teams at the top of the league fighting for the title, so it’s going to be a great atmosphere in front of a full house.
“We want to pass the ball, do things quickly and use our pace and ability.”
Hearts will move nine points clear of the Ibrox outfit with victory tomorrow but Neilson insists it would still be far too early in the season to get excited about their title aspirations.
Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, he added: “No matter the outcome of Saturday’s game, it’s not going to have a huge bearing in the end.
“It would be great for us if we can get the three points but if we do win, we still have a long way to go.
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“It would be a great cushion for us to get three points and also a great boost for the boys’ confidence.
“No matter how far we are ahead, whether it’s three points or whether it’s nine points, we still need to go out the next week and do it again.
“Every game is a test for us. There is still a very long way to go and a lot of points to pick up between now and the end of the season.
“We’re also aware we’ve got Celtic in the Scottish Cup the following week, then it’s back to the league with Queen of the South at home.
“They gave us a real fright when we played them down there in the first 20 minutes.”
Neilson does not have his injury problems to seek ahead of the Rangers match. Captain Danny Wilson looks set to miss out with a hamstring injury, while top scorer Osman Sow is receiving treatment for a thigh problem.
Rangers manager McCoist, meanwhile, has revealed that Tynecastle is his favourite away day in Scottish football as he looks to get the Ibrox side’s promotion push back on track.
McCoist has a 100 per cent record as a manager at Tynecastle, registering 2-0 and 3-0 wins during the 2011-12 campaign prior to the financial meltdown which resulted in the club being liquidated.
And the Rangers manager says tomorrow afternoon’s encounter is the kind of occasion which has been a long time coming as they climbed from the bottom tier of Scottish football. “These are the games we have missed and have looked forward to for a long, long time,” said McCoist.
“Tynecastle, outside Ibrox, is probably my favourite ground in the country.
“The atmosphere of a full house at Tynecastle is as good as anywhere.
“Hearts are going very well as everyone knows. They had a very good win against Falkirk last week after our disappointment of drawing against Alloa.
“But all we are thinking about it cutting the gap to three points.
“We will set up a team we believe will win the game against a good, organised Hearts side.
“We are confident and, bar the draw against Alloa, are on a decent run ourselves.
“We had won eight in a row prior to that. We are looking forward very positively to Saturday’s game at Tynecastle.”
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