Edinburgh derby: Hearts boss Craig Levein clarifies 'natural order' claim

Hearts manager Craig Levein and Hibernian counterpart Neil Lennon
Craig Levein (left) was criticised by Neil Lennon for post-match comments following the last Edinburgh derby

Hearts manager Craig Levein has sought to clarify his January comments regarding the Edinburgh derby fixture.

Following Hearts' 1-0 Scottish Cup win over Hibernian, Levein said "natural order" had been restored, sparking criticism from Neil Lennon.

"I'm used to Hearts winning these fixtures," Levein said before Friday's derby at Easter Road.

"If you look at the stats and record books, it's normal that Hearts hold the upper hand - so that's what it means."

Hearts go into the derby at Easter Road nine points behind their city rivals; and they lost 1-0 on their previous visit across the capital in October.

"We have improved [since losing 1-0 to Hibs last year] and we didn't play particularly well," said Levein. "But the encouraging thing for me is we didn't play particularly well but only lost 1-0.

'I love this fixture'

"I expect a better performance from us tomorrow night. Even though we have injury problems, I feel we've got a little bit to go in terms of the balance of the squad.

"But it's a bit better than it was at that time [at Easter Road]. It's always a massive game - I love this fixture.

"There are only three points at stake but, for me, there's more importance attached to this than a lot of matches we play because of the nature of the game and the rivalry of the two clubs and the supporters. We hope that we come out of the game just six points behind."

Asked about his Hibs counterpart's view that he is "not ingrained" in Edinburgh derbies, Levein said: "The last time we were down there and he [Neil Lennon] was doing his lap of honour he looked as if he was enjoying himself.

"You can't say that a set of supporters don't love their club any more than the other side. The derby match between the Old Firm and the Dundee teams and the teams in Edinburgh - the feelings are the same. It's just there is a bigger crowd at the Old Firm match. So it's just the same thing."

Craig Levein quote

Hearts defenders Christophe Berra and John Souttar are fitness doubts for Friday's derby. The former suffered head and ankle knocks in the Scottish Cup loss to Motherwell, while the latter sustained a hamstring injury.

"They are both desperate to play and I'm hopeful they will both be fine," added Levein. "With Christophe we have followed all the correct procedures and he wasn't concussed.

"He has passed all the tests and we wouldn't take any risks. The problem isn't so much the bang on the head but he had an injection on his ankle to play on Sunday so that is causing a little problem as well."

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