Craig Levein has stressed Hearts are now good enough to take on Celtic without going to extremes to gain an advantage.
The Gorgie side meet the champions tomorrow at BT Murrayfield for a place in the Betfred Cup final against a backdrop of ill-feeling partly created by recent attempts by Hearts to secure a sporting advantage.
Levein instructed the Tynecastle groundsman to let the grass grow slightly longer than normally would be the case prior to a league clash between the teams last season. Although Celtic won that fixture 3-1, the visitors’ manager Brendan Rodgers labelled the tactic “embarrassing”.
But Levein is now more confident his side can match Celtic on a level playing field, which is what the SPFL has striven to achieve at BT Murrayfield. It has sought to re-create as far as is possible the conditions at Hampden, where the game was originally scheduled to take place.
An outcry about both the planned evening kick-off and the fact the other semi-final between Aberdeen and Rangers was taking place hours earlier on the same pitch saw the Hearts-Celtic tie switched to Edinburgh.
Hearts trained at the rugby ground yesterday and Levein said he was happy with the surface – including grass length. Although Hearts played four league games there last season, when they ensured the pitch dimensions mirrored those at Tynecastle, they had no input this time.
“The pitch size is the same as at Hampden, which is fine,” said Levein. “The grass length – just to let you know – will be between 26 and 30mms.
“I am not worried about those types of things as much as I was last season,” he added. “I feel our team last season, when we beat Celtic [4-0 in December], was based on running, energy and pressing. We are different this year. A lot of the players we had last season could do that but could not do other things. This time we have better players who can do better things with the ball.
“It means we might have it [the ball] a bit more or longer than was the case last season. For us being the team that was doing the chasing most of the time last season the size of the pitch was important. Not quite so much this season.”
Levein added: “I have more faith because of the nature of player we have. They are uncomplicated and hungry to be better.”