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Last Updated: 10/08/18 5:57pm
Celtic will look to build on their opening day win over Livingston as they start their away campaign with a trip to Tynecastle on Saturday.
The Hoops recorded their seventh-straight Scottish Premiership title in 2017/18 and got their defence off to an ideal start as they defeated Livingston 3-1 last weekend, despite having been back in action for over a month, winning three and drawing two of their Champions League qualifying games.
Brendan Rodgers’ men face a crunch European qualifier against AEK Athens on Tuesday and having only drawn 1-1 at home in the first leg, must score in the return fixture to stand a chance of reaching the play-off round, meaning the Northern Irishman could be temped to shuffle his pack.
For Hearts, forward Kyle Lafferty is yet to score in five appearances this term, though the 30-year-old played in four Hearts-Celtic fixtures last season and scored in three of them.
Boss Craig Levein admitted Lafferty’s exploits against Celtic last season are in his thoughts as he mulls over team selection.
“It does factor into my thinking,” he said. “That’s something that comes in for every game, so he is obviously under consideration.”
“He has trained well this week so I have no complaints on that front. He is full of enthusiasm. He scored three goals against Celtic last season and I would be surprised if anyone else did that. So that obviously comes into my thinking.”
Hearts’ 4-0 win in December last year was Rodgers’ first domestic defeat in Scottish football and defender John Souttar aims to ensure there are plenty more of those type of days this term.
Hearts vs Celtic
August 11, 2018, 12:00pm
“At Tynecastle, we fancy ourselves against anyone,” the centre-back said. “If we start well and the crowd get behind us, we’re at a place now since the new stand where we are confident against anyone. We know if we play well and the crowd are behind us, we’ve got a great chance.”
Striker Moussa Dembele (hamstring) remains out but defender Dedryck Boyata is getting closer to featuring again following his World Cup efforts with Belgium.
Marvin Compper and Lewis Morgan are working their way back from injuries while Emilio Izaguirre, who returned to the club on a one-year deal on Friday, is unlikely to be involved.
For Hearts, meanwhile, Lafferty and Michael Smith are pushing to return to Levein’s starting eleven, with Arnaud Djoum, Harry Cochrane and Don Cowie continuing to train with the group following spells out with injuries.
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Hearts have only beaten Celtic once in their last 21 meetings in the Scottish Premiership (D2 L18), in a 4-0 victory in December 2017.
Celtic’s 4-0 defeat to Hearts is the only time they have lost there in their last 10 league visits (W8 D1); they have scored 2+ goals in each of those other nine games in this time (28 total).
After a run which saw them win 22 of 23 away league games (D1), Celtic have won just six of their last 12 on the road (D3 L3).
Hearts have only lost one of their previous 14 home fixtures in the league (W7 D6), however that was a 3-1 defeat to Celtic in May 2018.
In the 2017-18 Scottish Premiership campaign, Celtic won 13 of the 14 away games in which they took the lead at any stage (D1), more than any other side.