Snarky seems to have become the default setting of Craig Levein. Especially when discussion turns to Kyle Lafferty. Hearts haven’t appeared diminished by the loss of a striker who top scored for them last season.
The Tynecastle manager jokes, though, that in recruiting the Northern Irishman at the end of the transfer window Rangers have acquired a more all-action figure than the player he had at his disposal in Gorgie.
Levein doesn’t offer any definitive answer on whether he would rather Lafferty did or didn’t start this afternoon.
“I’ve not even thought about that because I’m not sure that Stevie Gerrard is going to listen to what I would rather have,” he said.
“Kyle scored 19 goals for us last season, so we know just how much of a potent threat he is. He does score goals in big matches, but [Alfredo] Morelos has been one of Rangers’ top players since he came in last year.
“Whatever they do – whether they play one, the other or both – we have to be prepared for all of those things.
“I thought [Kyle’s move] would happen eventually. It was just about getting the right deal, and that’s where we got to. To be fair, Kyle made it clear that he wanted to go back to Rangers, and he’s started well there. He’s scored a few goals already. When I watch him, he runs about like mad, you know? He only ever did that for us against Celtic.”
Following Rangers’ exertions in their Europa League victory over Rapid Vienna on Thursday night, Levein hopes that his side will have the advantage at Ibrox today of being the fresher side.
Lafferty was benched for a success underpinned by a Morelos double on the back of failing to make an impact in the loss to Livingston a week ago but today’s encounter could offer the perfect stage for a return to action.
“It depends how they balance Thursday night and Sunday,” said Levein.
“The point is that Kyle has scored goals in big matches wherever he has been. We’re well aware of what Kyle is capable of, but I’m an admirer of Morelos as well, he’s a really good striker.
“Our way of dealing with that will be our two young centre-backs [John Souttar and Jimmy Dunne] who are improving week-on-week, and I think they are capable of dealing with just about everything that is thrown at them.”