Heart of Midlothian return to action after a two-week hiatus due to the international break. They do so with one of the trickier matches in the league, at home to Kilmarnock. Even more so when you take into account the club's recent record in the fixture.

Not only are Killie sitting fourth but Hearts have won just four of their last 19 home league matches against the Ayrshire side.

Steven Naismith should be boosted by the availability of three key first-team players as they look to bounce back from defeat at Ross County last time out.

Writers Joel and James predict the starting XI to face Derek McInnes' men.

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Joel Sked

Hearts Standard:

The international break has been useful in terms of getting players back to fitness. Barrie McKay, Calem Nieuwenhof and Frankie Kent could all be available. The big one, however, is the latter. The defence struggled against Ross County’s attack last time out, which combined physicality with plenty of running power. Kilmarnock have that in abundance and even better quality in the forward positions. 

Kyle Vassell and Marley Watkins are a handful of an attacking duo and supplied by the quality of Matty Kennedy and Daniel Armstrong. Therefore there is a strong case for a back three. One that ideally is anchored by Kent with Stephen Kingsley and Kye Rowles flanking him. If it is a back four it has to be with Kent and Kingsley. 

There could be an element of cat and mouse against the Killie wide men. If Hearts play a back three with wing-backs it could force Armstrong and Kennedy back toward their own goal. Derek McInnes could decide to tell his wide men not to track back which could lead to the Hearts wing-backs second-guessing themselves. Killie tend to play with a back four who are all comfortable at centre-back offering them defensive solidity.

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If it is wing-backs, I’d go for Dexter Lembikisa and Alex Cochrane.

In the middle of the park Jorge Grant should be brought back in, alongside Beni Baningime and Cammy Devlin providing Nieuwenhof is only fit for the bench. Devlin should relish the battle in the middle of the park with the likes of Liam Donnelly and David Watson. 

The strike pairing could be interesting. Lawrence Shankland is a certainty. I’d opt for Kenneth Vargas’ goal threat but he’s done plenty of travelling this week. Could it mean a start for Yutaro Oda after his impact off the bench against Ross County? 

Predicted line-up: Clark; Kingsley, Kent, Rowles: Lembikisa, Devlin, Baningime, Grant, Cochrane: Shankland, Oda.

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James Cairney

I think we’ll see Hearts line up in a 3-5-2 this afternoon. It’s no secret that Killie like to get the ball in the box and in Danny Armstrong, they possess one of the league’s most creative players. An extra body at the back gives Hearts a better chance of cutting off Kilmarnock’s most potent goal threat at its source as the likes of Kye Rowles can push up to apply pressure – and on the occasions when Killie do get a cross in, having another centre-half to deal with the inevitable aerial bombardment wouldn’t go amiss.

With Frankie Kent back in contention, I expect we’ll see the Englishman back in the starting line-up and in the middle of the back three. Kent’s been conspicuous by his absence in recent weeks and if he is deemed fit enough to start, he must be a shoo-in. I’d expect Rowles and Stephen Kingsley to partner him at the back, with Dexter Lembikisa and Alex Cochrane occupying the wing-back slots on either side.

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Beni Baningime will surely start at No.6, as he always does, but the rest of the midfield is a little less clear-cut. Today’s game comes too soon for Calem Nieuwenhof, so I expect his Aussie compatriot Cammy Devlin to get the nod. The lack of a natural playmaker in the starting line-up cost Hearts against Ross County, and so I think we’ll see Jorge Grant brought back into the starting XI for this one.

Up top, there is another difficult decision to be made: who should partner Lawrence Shankland? One of Alan Forrest and Kenneth Vargas has to miss out, and you can easily make the case for either player, but I think Vargas will start. The Costa Rican, who finalised a permanent switch to Hearts earlier in the week, offers more of a goal threat when playing through the centre. And with six goals in his last 13 outings, he isn’t exactly short of confidence either.

Predicted line-up: Clark; Kingsley, Kent, Rowles; Baningime; Lembikisa, Devlin, Grant, Cochrane; Shankland, Vargas.