Hearts v Inverness | Tuesday 6th October 2020, 19:45 | Premier Sports
Hearts will be glad to finally get their season underway in this League Cup tie. Having been relegated to the Championship after sitting at the bottom of the league, when the season was ‘called', the Edinburgh outfit have Robbie Neilson returning, replacing Daniel Stendal as manager, recruiting him back to Tynecastle from Dundee United.
Caley Thistle have had more continuity than Hearts in the manager’s office of late, with ex-Jambo legend John Robertson having now been in charge for over three years in his second spell in the Highlands.
Robbo, if truth be told, has worked minor miracles at Inverness, with decent high-placed league finishes. To finish second in the curtailed 2019/20 season was a superb achievement for the club, given the budget they have to work with.
However, I can see it being a little bit tougher for Caley this season. The quality of players they have lost in 2020 is going to make last season’s heroics trickier to emulate.
Six players have stepped up to Scottish Premiership clubs. Shaun Rooney and Jamie McCart have departed to St Johnstone, Carl Tremarco and Coll Donaldson have moved across the Kessock Bridge to join local rivals Ross County, striker Jordan White signed for Motherwell with Charlie Trafford also moving to Lanarkshire, joining Hamilton. Tom Walsh has signed for Championship rivals Ayr Utd.
Kai Kennedy has been signed on-loan from Rangers in the last few days and striker Shane Sutherland has made a return from Elgin with defender Danny Devine has been acquired from Dunfermline. Overall, Caley obviously have a more limited squad than before and have only had a months pre-season plus three or four friendlies prior to heading to Tynecastle.
Hearts have obviously had to prune the huge squad they carried in the Premiership last season. However, they have been able to bring in a handfull of new recruits. Goalkeeper Craig Gordon returns, and is a big upgrade between the sticks. Ex-Ranger Andy Halliday will bolster the midfield, as will ex-St Mirren Mihai Popescu in defence.
Hearts have also had a lot more pre-season training than their cup opponents. In their final pre-season friendly, the Jam Tarts won 2-0 away at Partick. Craig Gordon saved a penalty in the match, then Hearts won with a goal apiece from Jamie Walker and Andy Irving.
Hearts will be keen to get off to a good start, though winning the Championship will be the priority. Teams will be using these cup games to get their full squads match-fit for the challenges ahead.
Front-man Craig Wighton could have a good season, and if they can keep the likes of Steven Naismith fit and with the prolific Liam Boyce to call on when he is not on international duty, it's easy to see why the Jam Tarts are strong favourites.
The betting angles
I think Robbo will set up to make Inverness hard to beat in this one, but ultimately Neilson's side (with seven competitive pre-season games under their belt) should have a little bit too much for the Highlanders in Gorgie.
With there likely to be a flurry of substitutions in the second half of this I don't expect a goalfest, as players get up and running. So the main bet and angle in this to get Hearts on side to win, at a more appealing shade below evens by taking Under 5 Goals alongside the straight win at 10/11 (Bet365).
Naismith, who should be on the penalties, is a fair 5/1 (Bet365)shot to score the opener. Remember to tick the ‘void if not starting’ box with Bet365. Walker is also worth a goalscorer poke, as he should be able to get in amongst the goals, with a double-figure haul looking likely in the Championship, from playing just off the striker this season.