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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Alan Pattullo auth-> Charlie Richmond
Balogh Janos [S Fletcher 14] Soulemayne Bamba
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Laszlo backs Hibs for top-six finish

HIBERNIAN have received a message of support from an unlikely source as they today seek to take another step in a bid to finish in the top six.
This ambition will seem a paltry one to Hibs fans, while the surprising identity of this backer might be a further source of discomfort. Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo tastes the fourth Edinburgh derby of his short Tynecastle tenure, and an unbeaten record coupled with the 12-point gap which currently exists between the two sides means he can afford to be charitable.

Opposite number Mixu Paatelainen is a man under heavier stress as Hibs seek to win two successive league games for only the third time this season. Against a backdrop of fan unrest, Paatelainen is also in search of his first derby win as manager.

"My colleague (Mixu] had a hard time for two or three weeks," acknowledged Laszlo, who also prayed that Hibs reach the top six, although for not entirely benevolent reasons. Hibs are competing with the likes of Motherwell for a top-half finish and Laszlo would prefer a home clash against his side's city adversaries than a trip to Fir Park, and its rutted surface.

Today's match at Easter Road will be Hearts' second league visit of the season. The Tynecastle side have also been posted to the other side of Edinburgh in the Scottish Cup, and returned with a 2-0 win.

"I hope they can also finish in the top six with us then we get one more home game," added Laszlo. "If Motherwell finish in the top six, we must play away and we don't have a derby. This is good for the supporters and Edinburgh to have the derby.

"I think to play a derby against Hibs is okay. If you are in the top six and have the possibility to play more games at home, this can also be an advantage. I wish all opponents all the best for their targets but, at the moment, we are not (guaranteed to be] in the top six, so we must get some more points."

Laszlo's immediate aims conflict with his stated hope that Hibs join Hearts in the top six. A victory for the visitors today would further cement Hearts' position behind Celtic and Rangers, and increase the pressure on Paatelainen. The Finn is one of the few managers Laszlo has not fallen out with in his maiden season in Scottish football. The Hearts manager has been involved in touchline spats with Motherwell's Mark McGhee and Jimmy Calderwood of Aberdeen. He also angered Dundee United manager Craig Levein with his tactics in a game at Tannadice last month. He later laughed off these confrontations.

Yesterday he assured listeners that his own behaviour had not fallen short of what was acceptable. He also suggested other managers might benefit from being exposed to the different experiences that have shaped his career, with stints in Hungary and Uganda included in a diverse CV.

A comment which suggested moving across the border to England was not a big step in cultural terms was perhaps made in reference to Levein, who left Hearts and endured a difficult period with Leicester City before returning to Scotland in 2006.

"I have respect," insisted the Hearts manager. "Respect from my side is there. These guys have had a long time in Scottish football and I am new – maybe they need to look at it a little bit from a distance. I moved around the world," he continued. "It is not enough to move to England and back. These coaches also work for Scottish football and we have to try to make it better."

Paatelainen has a foot in both camps. Having played much of his football in Scotland, he is regarded as a honorary Scot, but he can empathise with Laszlo's 'outsider' complaint. At a press briefing yesterday, the Finn assured listeners that he had no truck with his opposite number across the city. Indeed, he regarded Laszlo as a member of his gang. Paatelainen has not been slow to ruffle feathers since becoming Hibs manager last year and stood toe-to-toe with Walter Smith on one memorable occasion last season. Like Laszlo, he is known for his touchline histrionics.

"I have had no problem with him at all," said Paatelainen, before adding with a grin: "We foreigners like each other. You must ask the other managers (why they have been upset by Laszlo]. Maybe they feel he is a little bit 'wrongly cultured'. I don't pay too much attention to what happens in the other technical area."

Both sides have been boosted by additions to the squad today. Defender Marius Zaliukas returns following suspension for Hearts, while Ian Murray will come into the reckoning for Hibs after his return from injury.

Taken from the Scotsman

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