Will Manchester United end Liverpool’s unbeaten run? Premier League preview podcast!

Kris Gourlay is joined on the sofa by Gregor Kerr this week as they look ahead to some mouth-watering Premier League fixtures, including Liverpool vs Manchester United at Anfield, with Jurgen Klopp’s team looking to extend their unbeaten run in the league this season to 22 games.

Checkout our roundup of the games below, as well as the link to our second podcast this week, looking ahead to the Scottish Cup action!

 

Rangers and Celtic to breeze past lower league opposition? Scottish Cup preview podcast

Kris Gourlay is joined this time by Fergus Robb, Darren McConachie and Aaron Purewal as they look towards what should be an eventful weekend of Scottish Cup action.

The main topic of discussion in the podcast is Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic’s tie against Clyde on Saturday, with Bonnyrigg being one of three non-league outfits competing this weekend to make it to the fifth round for the first time. Bonnyrigg manager Robbie Horn spoke to to EN4 News ahead of the tie, as previewed at the start of the podcast.

Check out our preview of these games, as well as our teams Scottish cup predictions below!

 

Hearts name Steven Naismith as new club captain

Heart of Midlothian manager Daniel Stendel has announced Steven Naismith as the new club captain.

The Scotland striker joined Hearts on loan from Norwich City in January 2018 before committing his long-term future to the club in the summer of 2019. He will take the armband from axed skipper Christophe Berra, who was told by the manager that he is free to find a new club.

Naismith has scored 16 goals in 41 league appearances for Hearts. He has proven to be a talisman for the Gorgie side time and again, especially in last season’s run to the Scottish Cup final. His run as captain will begin with a home tie in the cup against Airdrieonians on Saturday.

The three other candidates for the captaincy were Craig Halkett, John Souttar and Michael Smith, but Stendel has ultimately opted for the experience of Naismith to try and get Hearts back on track this season.

Despite missing out on the captaincy, Stendel made the decision to maintain John Souttar as club vice-captain.

Next week, when the league restarts following the winter break, the new skipper will be trying to chase down the five-point gap that has Hearts sitting adrift at the bottom of the table.

Scottish Women’s Cup final: Hibernian and Glasgow City renew rivalry for last trophy of the season

(From left to right): Glasgow City manager Scott Booth, Glasgow City midfielder Rachel McLaughlin, Hibernian captain Joelle Murray and Hibernian manager Grant Scott will compete for the Scottish Women’s Cup at Tynecastle on Sunday. (Credit: Jamie Braidwood)

 

Sunday’s Scottish Women’s Cup final will see the latest chapter of the fierce rivalry between Glasgow City and Hibernian Ladies F.C unfold.

It seems only right that the last final of the decade will be contested by the two teams who have enjoyed a duopoly over Scottish football over the past 10 years, and have swept the board in terms of domestic honours.

In one corner there is Glasgow City, whose dominance over the Scottish Women’s Premier League has been unprecedented. City have won the last 13 titles and clinched their latest success earlier this month.

Hibs, meanwhile, have ruled over the domestic cup competitions in recent years. They have won the last seven domestic cups – four Premier League Cups and three Scottish Cups – and on Sunday have the chance to beat City and maintain that remarkable record.

“When we started on the cup run [in 2016] we never would have thought we would have been in the position to retain the cup for the fourth consecutive year,” says Hibs captain Joelle Murray ahead of the final.

“We’ve got confidence in the squad but there’s no arrogance. We appreciate and respect the challenge that City continue to bring in the cup competitions.”

Hibs and Glasgow City have already won trophies this season heading into Sunday’s final. (Credit: Jamie Braidwood)

 

Hibs have already tasted victory over their rivals in a cup final this season, beating City in a tense penalty shoot-out to win the Premier League Cup in May, but were once again second best in the league.

It was the fifth season in a row that Hibs had finished second to City in the league, but this season was tough to take. After only finishing three points behind City last year, Hibs regressed and finished the campaign nine points behind their rivals.

Sunday’s game offers Murray and her team-mates another shot at revenge.

“To have that disappointment is very frustrating but on the flipside, to have a Scottish Cup final to look forward to so close to the end of the season is an opportunity to take away from that disappointment,” she says.

“Over the last few years winning the Scottish Cup has taken away from that disappointment ever so much. So it’s another opportunity on Sunday try and get over the league loss for us.”

Both Hibs and City reached the knockout stages of the Women’s Champions League this season. But while Hibs’ campaign was ended in September by Slavia Prague, City have advanced to the quarter-finals for only the second time in their history. They will face German champions Wolfsburg in March. For now though, all focus is on winning the Scottish Cup on Sunday.

“It’s been a while since we’ve lifted the trophy and we’re very hungry to do it this time,” says Glasgow City manager Scott Booth.

“It would be a fantastic end to what has been a very good season for the club. We know it’s going to be close because Hibs always prove to be tough for us in the league and the cup.

“They’ve been better than us in the cup for the last few years, but we’ve talked about this since from the start of the season that we have focussed on taking this one back off of them.

“We’ve had so much disappointment in the cups over the last few years, and we don’t want to go through that again.”

Sunday’s final will be held at Hearts’ Tynecastle Park in Edinburgh, which is also fitting after Hibs’ city rivals secured promotion to the Women’s Premier League last weekend.

And in what has been a momentous year for women’s football in Scotland, with the national team competing in the World Cup finals over the summer, there is hope that Sunday’s final will see a good turnout for the final game of 2019.

“It’s an advantage [to both teams] hosting the final at a stadium like Tynecastle,” Murray says. “It’s a stadium very fitting of the occasion and on Sunday I’m hoping it will be full of both Hibs and City fans. I would like to think whether it’s Hibs, City or neutral fans, that we get a big attendance.”

The Scottish Women’s Cup final between Glasgow City and Hibernian Ladies kicks off at 4:10 p.m. on Sunday November 24. Entry is £7 for adults, £3 for concussions, and free for under-12s. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the gate.

Football, F1, Cricket and more – It’s the weekly sports quiz!

Football, Rugby, UFC and Golf – It’s the weekly sport quiz!

Europa League Preview: can Celtic keep their unbeaten run going?

Celtic vs Lazio:

Celtic face their toughest test so far in this year’s Europa League as they host Italian side Lazio. Neil Lennon will be relatively happy with his side’s performances so far, with a draw away at Rennes and a comfortable home win against Cluj being enough for them to sit at the top of the group.

Last years treble winners now find themselves needing a good result on Thursday, as a double header against the Italians in the coming weeks could decide the fate of their European ambitions this season in a very competitive group.

Domestically, Celtic have not looked as ruthless as last year, with a loss to Livingston and a draw at Hibs leaving them tied at the top of the Scottish Premiership alongside Rangers. They did, however, put six goals past Ross County on Saturday whilst Lazio were held to a 3-3 draw at home against Atalanta.

The Italian side will be no pushovers. Currently sitting on 3 points alongside Cluj, Lazio also need a decent run of wins to secure their place in the last 16 of the competition. Dangerman Ciro Immobile will pose a threat to the Celtic defence as he usually does with his opponents, already netting double figures this season in all competitions. Lazio also have an impressive midfield balance with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ex-Liverpool players, Luis Alberto and Lucas Leiva, the latter winning the club’s Player Of the Season award last year.

Celtic head coach Neil Lennon confirmed on Wednesday that Olivier Ntcham is still unfit, but Tom Rogic and Ryan Christie should both be a part of the matchday squad, a real boost for Celtic as Christie has been one of their most impressive and consistent performers so far this campaign.

 


Porto vs Rangers:

Credit – Heather Miller

Rangers will look to put Sunday’s frustrating draw at Hearts behind them when they take on European giants Porto in Thurday’s early kick off in Portugal.

Steven Gerrard’s side failed to take advantage of results around them two weeks ago, as they slipped to late defeat against Young Boys in Switzerland, a game they felt they could have won. After an impressive 1-0 win at home to Feyenoord in game week 1, The Gers could have put themselves top of the group with a win in Switzerland but instead join the rest of the teams on 3 points.

Rangers find themselves mixed with an equally hard group as they did last year, when they failed to reach the knockout stage. Making qualification to the last 16 a huge challenge for head coach Steven Gerrard, who has made his side a more competitive force in Europe after a long absence.

Sunday’s draw at Tynecastle will have dampened the mood a little going into the showdown as they now have arch-rivals Celtic for company at the top of the Premiership, but Gerrard will be hoping for a big response on against the 2004 Champions League winners.

Porto oftenfind themselves amongst the worlds best in the Champions League but an unusually poor domestic campaign by their incredibly high standards resulted in them taking a step down into the Europa League group stages.

They started off well in week 1 with a home win over Young Boys but slumped to defeat against Feyenoord in game week 2 which left them on three points.

Porto were in cup action on the weekend with a comfortable 5-0 win over Coimbroes and currently sit 3rd in the Portuguese league.

Rangers’ only notable absentee from the match tonight is midfielder Ryan Jack, who sustained a knee injury two weeks ago against Young Boys. The Scot also put pen to paper this week to commit his future to the Glasgow side, which will no doubt have raised spirits inside the changing room.

For the home side, midfielder Sergio Oliviera remains on the side-lines but their strike-partnership of Ze Luis and Moussa Marega will be fit and firing, having contributed to 11 goals so far this season respectively.

 

Hearts face Kilmarnock looking to build on positive week

From facing fan protests and being one game away from the sack following their 3-2 home defeat to Motherwell last month, Craig Levein and his Hearts side face Kilmarnock at Tynecastle on Saturday looking to build on an upturn of form.

Hearts find themselves go into this game on a run of three games unbeaten, including a vital derby win at Easter Road. Both Hearts and Kilmarnock were involved in stalemates in their last matches, with Levein’s side drawing at St Mirren and Killie drawing at home to Ross County.

Both meetings between the sides at Tynecastle last season finished in 1-0 victories for the away side and all four meetings between the sides ended in away victories last season.

Kilmarnock have stabilised after a disastrous start for new manager Angelo Alessio, which saw them crash out of Europa League qualifying to Welsh side Connah’s Quay Nomads. Sitting seventh in the league, two points ahead of Hearts, Killie are facing a striker crisis for Saturday with both Eamonn Brophy and former Hearts man Osman Sow doubtful due to injury.

For a team that has scored just five goals in their first seven league games, that is a worry of the Rugby Park side.

Hearts are yet to win at Tynecastle Park in the league this season (Credit: Neil McGlashan)

Hearts themselves are in the midst of their own injury crisis with Craig Halkett ruled out for at least eight weeks, though the injury may not as bad as first feared. He joins key players such as Peter Haring and Steven Naismith on the sidelines.

Naismith is aiming for the Rangers match on October 20 for his return to action and has said that Hearts need to “push on” and improve their form.

Speaking on Radio Scotland’s Sportsound, Naismith said “We play Kilmarnock and then after break, we need to push on and start picking up results. Where we are sitting now is far from ideal.”

“The individual mistakes have been crazy. Six or seven of the goals we’ve lost have been from unforced errors.” he added.

Japanese loanee Ryotaro Meshino is looking to continue his good form since arriving in Edinburgh on loan from English champions Manchester City. He has been the bright spot in a disappointing season so far for the Jambos, scoring his debut goal against Motherwell.

Meshino has impressed since joining from Manchester City on loan (Credit: Gregor Kerr)

Much of Hearts’ success in recent years has been built on strong home form but they are yet to win at Tynecastle in the league so far this season. They will be looking to put that right on Saturday and break the recent trend of away wins in this fixture.

Levein’s “fingers crossed” over Naismith’s injury

Craig Levein

Craig Levein will be without Steven Naismith for the second time this season. (Credit: Luke Barry)

Hearts star striker Steven Naismith has been ruled out for 10 weeks after requiring surgery on his knee. He was substituted in a 2-1 defeat to Celtic last weekend in what would turn out to be his second major setback of this season.

He goes for his operation on Monday next week, however, his manager Craig Levein has not ruled out the possibility that he will return before the end of the season should Hearts make it to the Scottish Cup final.

He said: “I hope so, he came back from injury really quickly last time so fingers crossed it will be the same again. It is unfortunate for him and for us at the club too because we have a lot of big games ahead.”

Levein has voiced his empathy for Naismith, who will not only miss the majority of the club season, but potentially the European Championship play offs at the end of the season. The 32 year old would have most likely been a starter for Alex McLeish’s Scotland side who play Kazakstan and San Marino in the summer.

He said: “It is not only a shame for Hearts. He is also sitting on 49 caps and should be getting his 50th in a couple of months. He is a player whose generation has missed out on getting to major finals with Scotland and there is a chance that could happen this time. So I feel sorry for him as he has worked ever so hard to get back from his last injury.”

Steven Naismith was forced off in a 2-1 defeat to Celtic last week (Credit: SNS Group)

However, despite their form dipping the last time they were without Naismith, the Hearts boss is more confident in his squad at this stage of the season.

“When he was out previously we had a shortage of strikers. Craig Wighton is bak fully fit again after his ankle problem and we have also got David Vanecek back with us as well as Uche [Ikpeazu]. So it is a different situation altogether and I don’t feel nearly as anxious as earlier on in the season when we had to deal without Steven in the team.”

Hearts play Dundee away in the league on Saturday as their hunt for Europe continues as they currently sit in fifth place and three points off Kilmarnock. Craig Levein will be hopeful that his side can claim all three points against the team currently a point from bottom in the table.

 

Hearts sign former Leeds left back Aidy White

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Heart of Midlothian have bolstered their squad with the addition of former Leeds United and Barnsley left back Aidy White.

White, a free agent, had been on the radar of manager Craig Levein for over a year, and signed a contract this afternoon that will keep him at Tynecastle until 2021.

The news comes after the club also announced Uche Ikpeazu is extending his deal until 2022.

“We’ve been in dialogue with Aidy for a year and feel that now is the right time to bring him in,” Levein said.

“He’s got a lot of work to do to reach the level we think he’s capable of but I’m confident he can fulfil his potential and prove to be a vital cog in the wheel as we look towards the future.”

The 27-year-old defender came through the Leeds youth system and played over 100 games before joining Barnsley, winning the Football League Trophy and the League One Play-Off Final in 2016.

He has also captained Northern Ireland U21s but a groin injury forced him out in 2017.

 

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