Heart of Midlothian play their penultimate home game of the season on Saturday afternoon when they welcome Dundee to Gorgie.

Steven Naismith's men will be looking to get back to winning ways having not won in three following losses to Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final and Celtic in the league with a draw against Kilmarnock in between. During that time the team confirmed third spot and will be guaranteed European league phase football next season.

Hearts will still be looking to finish a successful season on a high with their final three games over the space of eight days.

Writers Joel and James look ahead to the first of those games and predict the starting XI.

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Joel Sked

Hearts Standard:

There will be plenty of calls from fans to see the fringe and younger players get a run out between now and the end of the season whether that is Kyosuke Tagawa and Scott Fraser, or Macaulay Tait and James Wilson. The likelihood, however, is that Steven Naismith will select the XI he feels are best equipped to pick up three points. With three games over a short period of time, there will be rotation.

It would not be surprising to see that rotation occur between the sticks with Zander Clark and Craig Gordon rotating the position. Both goalkeepers are keen to go to the Euros with Scotland. In front of the goalkeeper, there could be a switch back to a back four with Nathaniel Atkinson taking the place of Dexter Lembikisa. Neither have helped the position down consistently during the second half of the season but the former is at least contracted to the club next season. Stephen Kingsley could be rotated ahead of games against St Mirren and Rangers.

The midfield could have a slightly different shape with Barrie McKay playing ahead of Beni Baningime and Cammy Devlin. The playmaker is still building back up following an injury-ravaged season but this is certainly the type of game he should start. His role could be fluid with Alan Forrest and Kenneth Vargas on either side and swapping. Vargas and Forrest, as well as Devlin, are three players who will be keen to run beyond Lawrence Shankland and offer McKay passing options. 

Predicted line-up: Gordon; Atkinson, Kent, Rowles, Cochrane; Baningime, Devlin; Vargas, McKay, Forrest; Shankland.

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James Cairney

Of all the line-ups we’ve attempted to predict this season, Saturday’s team is perhaps the trickiest to call. Now that third place is secured, the final three games of the season are essentially dead rubbers. Will Naismith experiment tactically? Could we see fringe players given one last opportunity to show they have a future at the club beyond the summer? Could we see some youngsters from the B team getting blooded?

I suspect we’ll see Hearts line up in a 4-3-3 against Dundee. When the two teams last met at Tynecastle and Naismith changed the shape to a 4-3-3 and took the handbrake off, the result was swashbuckling, forward-thinking football. With nothing on the line, I’d expect a similar approach this time around.

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I think we’ll see Zander Clark in goals behind a back four of Alex Cochrane, Stephen Kingsley, Frankie Kent and Nathaniel Atkinson. In midfield, I’d expect to see Beni Baningime in his usual role in the No.6 position. I think we’ll see Cammy Delvin playing on the right of the midfield three, scurrying forward to join the attack, and I can see Macaulay Tait being given the nod on the other side. The youngster’s best performance in a Hearts jersey came in that 3-2 win over Dundee back in January, and I’d expect the midfielder to rack up some minutes between now and the end of the season.

Out on the wings, I think we could see Barrie McKay on the left and Yutaro Oda on the right. Both have struggled for game time on occasion this season – McKay especially – and I feel like Oda’s direct attacking style is well-suited to this game. Up front, I’d expect to see Lawrence Shankland – but, if things are going well, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kyosuke Tagawa brought on for the final half hour or so to make an impression.

Predicted line-up: Clark; Atkinson, Kent, Kingsley, Cochrane; Baningime, Devlin, Tait; Oda, Shankland, McKay.