Hibs v Hearts - again: Who the Scottish Cup draw suits the most with so much on the line

The first two balls out the draw and the sixth time in the last seven seasons that Hearts and Hibs have been drawn together in the Scottish Cup.

Elie Youan and Kye Rowles in action during the first Hibs v Hearts match of the season.
Elie Youan and Kye Rowles in action during the first Hibs v Hearts match of the season.

But the frequency of the meetings in the most prestigious of the domestic knockout tournaments has done little to minimise the allure. Neutrals love the high stakes, the fans love the triumphalism and the gloating that is heightened on such occasions.

While there are times when three points trump the need for cup progress, when it comes to the league, there is – mercifully for the losers – less of a wait for a do-over, and in the tumult of a long and twisting Premiership campaign, there is a greater opportunity to bury a loss in the mix. Cup competitions offer no such comfort, especially if victory in that one match helps their rivals along the road to success.

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The memories of such occasions are still painful in Gorgie and in Leith, which is why the pressure is on both sides to ensure they are the ones in the fifth round when the dust settles on the weekend of January 21.

The fact this cup match works with the New Year derby to bookend the January transfer adds interest to that month’s dealings and it will be fascinating to see how it drives the desire in both camps to strengthen or, indeed, hold onto their best players.

Hearts have come out on top in the most recent cup meetings, ousting the Hibees in the semi-finals at Hampden, and when it comes to the later stages, and the national stadium, fortunes do favour the maroon side of the city. Never more than in 2012.

But, this early in the contest, the setting need not perturb Lee Johnson’s men. Drawn at home, they have good memories of hosting these cup head-to-heads. They won there in 2016 on route to quashing a hoodoo that had haunted them for over a century.

Which is where the pressure comes. For Hibs, their fans will expect that home advantage to be translated into a last-16 spot, despite the fact that there is some disquiet in the stands at the form they showed in the final few games before the World Cup break.

They have Kevin Nisbet back and will want to see if he can make an impact, although the absence of injured Martin Boyle and the uncertainty surrounding the timing of Ryan Porteous’ when-not-if departure will need to be negated.

For Hearts manager Robbie Neilson, there are ghosts to lay to rest. Having never overseen a win at Easter Road, he will not want a repeat of that 2016 defeat – a result a section of the Gorgie support has still not forgiven him for. Just as the wounds of 2012’s 5-1 trouncing remains a stick to hit Hibs with, failing to halt their progress that season remains a sore point.

It leaves so much on the line for both managers, both clubs. The January 2 Premiership derby will be the litmus test when it comes to who has the advantage and how much, if any, ground has to be made up. But, when it comes to Scottish Cup meetings, all that can be guaranteed is that these days there will be a point in the draw when they hold each other's hopes in their hands.