London Hearts Supporters Club

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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Mike Aitken auth-> Calum Murray
8 of 023 ----- L SPL H

Hearts may face Hibs without striker, says Paatelainen as mind games start

Mike Aitken
HEARTS won't alter their system of fielding a lone striker designed to catch the opposition on the break in tomorrow's Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle unless Csaba Laszlo, their manager, decides not to play with any strikers at all, according to his opposite number at Easter Road, Mixu Paatelainen.
The Hibernian manager, who has used both 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 this season, reckons he knows exactly what brand of play Hearts will have in store for the New Year visit of their city rivals. "Tactics will be very important in this match," observed Paatelainen. "We know they are going to field one striker, or maybe not even one.

"That's why we must make sure we don't get sucked in too much. We realise their strengths and weaknesses and must make sure we have the tactics and players out there who can cope with that. I think Hearts could play 4-4-2. Why not? If they select to play that way, but they don't. They play with one striker or with no strikers. That's for sure. It's as simple as that."

Hearts' preferred 4-5-1 system this season uses Christian Nade up front on his own, with Laryea Kingston and Andrew Driver supporting from the flanks. However, the absence of the injured Bruno Aguiar, usually the most attack-minded of the three central midfielders, as well as the suspended centre-back, Marius Zaliukas, could tempt Laszlo to tinker with the usual formation. "We will try, tactically, to do something different," the Hearts' manager admitted.

When Laszlo substituted Nade against Dundee United two weeks ago, he brought on midfielder David Obua through the middle, effectively playing 4-6. Against Hibs, though, Laszlo could recall Devidas Cesnauskis on the right and use Kingston as support for Nade.

Although Paatelainen believes he knows how Hearts will choose to play tomorrow, he's full of admiration for the manner in which Laszlo has restored organisation and spirit at Tynecastle.

"Csaba has done a tremendous job there," he said. "Hearts have had a fantastic run, they are up the table and doing well. Last weekend was a disappointment for them (Hearts lost 1-0 at Aberdeen] but

every run comes to an end. They are in a very similar position to us. We want to bounce back (after losing 4-2 to Kilmarnock] and correct the situation. We didn't defend well last weekend and are determined we will defend better in the future. That starts on Saturday."

While Hibs, sixth in the SPL, have more options in attack than fourth-placed Hearts, Paatelainen knows he needs to be wary of matching his rivals' strength in midfield, both in tomorrow's league game and next week's Scottish Cup tie at Easter Road.

"I can't say there is a way that we will always play against Hearts, of course not. You have different players out on the pitch and so do they. And that may affect our thinking. We might not have Rob Jones and that affects us. They will be missing players as well."

Paatelainen has yet to decide on a role for new signing Jonatan Johansson, but seems most likely to use his countryman as a substitute winger. "He's improving every week," reported the manager. "After a lay-off you know someone is obviously not as sharp as they would be if they were training or playing regularly. We have organised bounce games and he has done some extra running and weight sessions to get the sharpness back.

"Jonatan has been working hard and he is approaching peak fitness. I wouldn't have any fears about asking him to play at Tynecastle. Whether he will start is another matter."

Asked if he'd signed the 33-year-old as a central striker or as a wide player, Paatelainen was coy. "It depends on the players available for us to select and also depends who we are playing against. But one thing is for sure, he's very versatile. He can play wide on the left or on the right, and he can play up front on his own."

Now the transfer window has opened, both Edinburgh clubs could lose players this month. Zaliukas, Kingston, Driver and Christophe Berra of Hearts are all tipped to attract interest from England and abroad while Middlesbrough are expected to check on the form of Hibs striker Steven Fletcher tomorrow.

Taken from the Scotsman

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