The first game of the Scottish Cup group stage gets underway tomorrow as the two group favourites meet at Tynecastle in a match that could really set the tone for group A.
With the rest of Group A consisting of Cowdenbeath, East Fife an Stenhousemuir; these two will fancy their chances of making it through regardless of the result come the final whistle in Edinburgh. It’s a pretty tough one to call, Hearts have the home advantage and of course ply their trade in the SPL, with United playing in the Championship. However the Tangerines have strengthened over the summer with the aim of making a return to the top flight next season, anything less would be a failure in the eyes of the fans.
Hearts are the firm favourites for the game at a price of 1.5, with Dundee United out at 5.5 to win. However I think the gulf in class may prove to be much shorter in practice than those odds suggest. The draw is priced at 4.33 which I think could be great value.
This will be the 195th meeting between the two clubs, with Hearts taking the share of the spoils having claimed 76 wins to Dundee United’s 68. Both teams have scored in seven of the clubs last nine meetings, which makes a price of 1.73 look very solid.
One of United’s main issues last season was their lack of a true number nine, several other clubs in the division had a 20-30 goal striker leading the line, United’s strikers managed barely in to double figures. However with the addition of Lawrence Shankland they have some real potency in attack, he hit 24 goals in the Scottish Championship last year and nine in six in the league cup. He’s at 3.1 to score anytime in this one.
The hosts are expected to start at full strength. The man mountain Uche Ikpeazu will lead the line, he’s a handful for any defender but is more of a battering ram than a composed finisher. He’s the shortest odds to find the net at 2.2, I see more value in new signing Connor Washington. The Irishman is a quality player and will be keen to get his career with The Jambos off to a flying start.
United’s line up is up for debate, Shankland will be the main talking point but the question is whether he starts as a lone striker or in a two striker set.
Hearts had a far from impressive season last year and often struggled to see games over the line, they finished the season with more losses than any other SPL side other than the bottom three and I think they may struggle to beat Dundee United here.
Dundee United were agonisingly close to making their return to the top flight last season, however I think with their new additions they’re the standout favourite to do it this time. But they won’t be only focusing on the league, the cup is a great opportunity for them to generate some income to further the clubs promotion push and could lead to some exciting ties in the later stages. A win or draw here would be ideal given the other sides that are in group A, I think Dundee United win or draw looks like a fantastic pick at odds of 2.4.