United face Neil Lennon’s side in today’s televised showdown at Easter Road, with Hibs hailed clear title favourites before a ball was even kicked.
The Edinburgh outfit have been striving for a top-flight return since being relegated from the Premiership in 2014 and agonisingly missed out via their play-off defeat by Falkirk in May.
But Tangerines goalkeeper Bell, lured to Tannadice during the summer in a bid to propel their own promotion push, reckons Ray McKinnon’s men are carrying every bit as much strain as they try to seal a quick-fire route back to the Premiership after making the dreaded drop down under previous manager Mixu Paatelainen.
Bell said: “I think there’s still a lot of pressure on Dundee United to get promoted this season.
“With the size of the club, the expectation will always be there from the fans. And that’s the way it should be. We’re such a big club so you want to have the expectation level there. It’s something that should drive you on. We should be up the top of the league come the end of the season.
“Nothing is won and lost in the first half of the season. But I think trying to get some consistency over the next two or three months will be key. That’s when you can really push yourself on in this league
“Hibs are obviously favourites for the league. They’ve got a huge squad. I totally appreciate why they’ve been made favourites, but there’s the same pressure on us.
“It’s a difficult task. Anyone who has played in this league will tell you that. Hibs’ players will know how hard it is as they’ve been here for three years now. It’s not as easy as just saying we should be up there come the end of the season.
“When you go out on to the pitch, you have got to go and get the points to put them on the table. It’s a long season. There will be lots of ups and downs. Ayr United went to Easter Road and beat Hibs and we lost away to Dumbarton.
“That’s because they’re all good teams in the Championship. There’s never going to be one week when it’s easy. You have to play as well as you can and be wise on the pitch, grinding out results if need be.”
United returned to winning ways last weekend by beating Morton 2-1 at Tannadice and know a win in Leith this afternoon would put them just two points behind Hibs despite making a stuttering start to the season.
Bell said: “It would be a solid start if we were to get the win on Sunday.
“Looking back, after the first few games of the season, we were a bit disappointed at not picking up as many points as we had hoped. But I think that’s the way the league is going to go this season.
“There are so many good teams that to put a winning run together is probably the big thing. It’s about trying to get four or five straight wins and going on a run because whoever can do that will probably end up top of the league.”
McKinnon has already told his side they must master the art of winning ugly in the Championship, and Bell couldn’t agree more with his manager.
He said: “I think that’s the key in this league. If you look at all the best teams and those that are successful, they always win when they’re not playing at their best. That will happen during the season. There will be games when you play well and win, and there will be other times when you’ll need to grind it out. It might not happen for you right away, but you still have to battle it out and get the three points.
“At the end of the day, it’s the team who can grind out those sort of games that will end up at the top of the league. So we know we need to win ugly sometimes.”