Zander Clark is adamant Hearts still firmly believe that they can overhaul Aberdeen and reclaim third place in the cinch Premiership.
The Jambos were 10 points ahead of the Dons in February but the tables have turned since then, and Barry Robson’s resurgent team now lead the stuttering Edinburgh side by five points with just three games to play.
Crucially, the two teams meet at Tynecastle this Saturday, giving Hearts – who finished third last year – a chance to cut the gap to two points.
“Yes, of course,” said Jambos goalkeeper Clark, when asked if he believed it was still possible. “If you don’t believe you can do that there’s no point being at the club.
“The standards and demands we put on each other within the dressing-room are high, and outwith the demands are high. We’ve got to believe we can go into every game and take maximum points.”
If Celtic beat Inverness in the Scottish Cup final, whoever finishes third will secure automatic European group-stage football next term and a significant financial boost. The stakes could hardly be higher for both clubs at Tynecastle this weekend.
“It will be a good game,” said Clark. “We’ll have the place packed. As players, we need to start the game well, give the fans something to cheer about and use that to our advantage.
“Every game you’re involved in when you’re a Hearts player is important, but we’ve slipped out of third place so Saturday’s game is a big one if we’ve got any aspirations of getting third place back.
“It’s a game we’re looking forward to and we’ll be ready for it.”
Aberdeen’s last visit to Tynecastle brought a 5-0 defeat under previous boss Jim Goodwin, but they have bounced back emphatically since Robson took the reins.
“Barry came in and they’ve had that new manager bounce so it will be a tough game, but we’re at home and we need to make that count by starting positively,” said Clark.
Hearts’ bid for third has been undermined by contentious red cards for Alex Cochrane and Peter Haring in their last two games against Celtic and St Mirren.
“It has been disappointing because we were very much in the Celtic game (until the red card) and last Saturday we had started to build momentum and then we went down to 10,” said Clark.
“But credit to the boys for not giving it up and going right to the final whistle to get a point (against St Mirren), which next week could hopefully prove to be a massive point for us.”
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