It`s stared already.
Both camps have been sizing up their opponents as they gear towards Saturday`s Euro showdown with each manager talking up their own contenders chances.
In the red corner; Jimmy Calderwood.
Jimmy and his Aberdeen team have had no European experience and insist that they are punching above their weight to be even in third place at present. But they are and are four points ahead of their Edinburgh rivals and possibly significantly, also have a better goal difference.
In the maroon corner, Hearts assistant Stevie Frail. A newcomer to the heavyweight Euro Challenger Division, Frail has built a squad out of the madness that is omnipotent at Tynecastle and assembled a team which was capable of hi-jacking Celtic`s SPL Championship party with a 3-1 victory at Parkhead on Saturday.
The match has everything an end of season match should have. It has lots at stake, there`s rivalry of course what with both sides vying to be the nation`s third best club. It`s a total sell out already and there`s even a little bit of revenge thrown in for good measure.
The war of words leading up the vital game has also begun. Jimmy knows this must be his best chance of wrapping the Euro spot up. His next matches are away to Celtic and then at home on the final day to Rangers. Since his team have not taken a point from either Old Firm side this year, the job has to be done at Tynecastle.
Hearts left Parkhead with three points on Sunday to become only the second team to win there all season, the significance of which have been brushed under the carpet as the majority of the media concentrated on the Jambo`s being “Parkhead Party Poopers” instead of pointing out the important fact that they are only four points behind Aberdeen now with only the two worst sides in the top six still to play and of course the Dons visit Gorgie on Sunday.
The first words in the mandatory psychological battle go to Dons boss Calderwood.
‘We are up for it because we know it’s our cup final, with a massive prize at stake,’
‘Everyone has worked their socks off to get to this position and I know we are capable of seeing the job through.
‘We’ve come through some very hard times, particularly when Sandy Finnie and Peter Simpson – who were loved by everyone at the club – died in August.
‘Then there was the Queen’s Park defeat and all the criticism that came with that.
‘But here we are, a few months later, just 90 minutes away from qualifying for Europe and making thousands of people happy.
‘It’s taken a lot of us three years to get to this point and you can be sure we are ready to battle Hearts all of the way to get the rewards.’
Calderwood said: ‘The pressure is off us now and piled on to their shoulders big style.
‘We know one win and we are there. Being in charge of your own fate is a great position to be in.
‘If someone had told me in August we would be guaranteed that at some stage I would have been jumping up and down with joy.
‘Even if we don’t win we would still have an advantage going into the last two matches.
‘Hearts must win though and hope for help from someone else as well, which will add to their nerves a bit.
‘We also remember the reaction from Hearts when they finished our European dream down there last year.
‘That was a horrible feeling and we are determined not to go through that again.’
Passionate words from the Dons main man and after a powerful 3-0 win over Kilmarnock last Saturday, he knows his boys are hitting form again but in the Hearts camp, Stephen Frail is conceding nothing.
After his side`s sensational Celtic Park victory, he has every right think his side can claw back the points on Aberdeen but naturally tries to put the pressure back onto his opponents.
‘They are still in the driving seat,’ said Frail
‘But we’ve made it a bit more interesting for next week.
‘But there’s no use us beating the champions on their own ground this week and then not beating Aberdeen at home.
No doubt more bold statements will be made this week and you can read them all on Vital Aberdeen this week but let`s just hope Michael Hart keeps his mouth shut for this one.
The Big One Is Coming- HeartsV Dons
It`s stared already.