Robbie Neilson remains aware of Hibs’ threat despite previous results

Hearts and Hibs meet this weekend.

By Press Association Published: 15 April 2022 - 8.49am

Robbie Neilson is adamant there is no chance of Hearts underestimating Hibernian ahead of Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final.

The Jambos go into the Hampden showdown in buoyant mood after defeating their Edinburgh rivals 3-1 in a cinch Premiership match at Tynecastle last weekend.

Many have billed Hearts as strong favourites in the wake of that match, but Neilson insisted there will be no complacency in his squad as he stressed that last Saturday’s victory was far from straightforward.

“I don’t think we were comfortable, to be honest with you,” said the Hearts manager. “Hibs were the better team for the first 20-30 minutes.

“They got their goal and if (Elias) Melkersen scores his opportunity, it’s 2-0. If we don’t get our goal when we did just before half-time, it’s a different story going in at half-time.

“We know there are areas we need to improve massively in. Yes, there were areas I was pleased with, the final outcome obviously, but there’s still a lot to be wary of.”

Hearts were already comfortable in third place before last weekend’s match. With a cup final place at stake as well the chance to seal European group-stage qualification with a victory, Neilson believes there is far more riding on Saturday’s semi than there was on the league game.

“The league game, we were in a pretty comfortable position in the league,” Neilson said. “Obviously it was a derby so we wanted to win but the real big one for us is the cup game.

“It was about putting that one to bed, making sure we got the three points and now it’s about making sure we get through in the cup.”

Neilson won the Scottish Cup as a player with Hearts in 2006, after beating Hibs 4-0 in the semi-final. Now he would love to do likewise as a manager.

“I was lucky enough to play here for nine seasons and I played European football but I only ever won one cup and that’s what you remember,” he said.

“When you go into football, you want to win trophies and win leagues. We’ve still got a long way to go but we’ve got an opportunity to get to a final, and that’s where Hearts should be.

“The cup is probably our best opportunity to win silverware because the disparity in the budgets with Rangers and Celtic makes it very difficult to compete over 38 games but you can get to a final after four games and give yourself an opportunity to win something.”

Hearts reached the 2020 Scottish Cup final under Neilson, again after beating Hibs in the semi-final, but lost on penalties to Celtic following a 3-3 draw behind closed doors 18 months ago.

“The last final we were in hurt but it gives you motivation,” said Neilson. “It can take teams time to become winners, to get that belief that you can get there and to get the understanding of playing in these big games and the pressure that comes before it.

“Winning leagues is a bit different because you can do that over the course of 38 games but winning cups is about dealing with the build-up to one-off games. For us on Saturday, it’s about handling the build-up to the big game, then if you get through, can you do it again (in the final)?”

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