Heart of Midlothian can open up an eight-point lead in third place in the Scottish Premiership on Tuesday evening when they face Dundee at Tynecastle Park.

It is the first Premiership fixture back after the winter break. Both teams were in action in the Scottish Cup but focus returns to league business. Hearts will hope to ensure they make amends from the second half of last season when they saw a good advantage in third evaporate over the final months of the campaign.

Dundee will likely prove to be tough opponents having performed well on their return to the top-flight and have already defeated the Tynecastle men this season.

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Hearts Standard:

The way I see it, there are three big decisions facing Steven Naismith. The goalkeeper, the third centre midfielder and the attacking set-up providing Lawrence Shankland is fit having returned to training ahead of the fixture. Although, let's face it, when the team sheet is announced fans will look to see if their No.9 is starting, followed by seeing who is between the sticks.

It would be a huge surprise not to see Shankland start in attack. Steven Naismith likes making changes from game to game, especially in the final third but he has a player who has scored three goals in his last three outings and a striker who has scored 12 goals in his last 13 league appearances. That confidence should be harnessed and Vargas and Shankland unleashed as a front pairing for the next few games to continue to build what could be a potent partnership. With Liam Boyce injured and Kyosuke Tagawa and Yutaro Oda poor against The Spartans there is not an abundance of options.

As for the goalkeeper. I find it hard to look past Zander Clark. The Scottish Cup game offered a perfect opportunity for Naismith to give Craig Gordon his first competitive game in nearly 400 days. But Clark had a hold of the No.1 jersey going into the international break with some excellent performances and the consistency you want in a goalkeeper.

Elsewhere, Dexter Lembikisa had a fine cameo on Saturday and displayed qualities that look perfectly suited to performing the wing-back role. There is a nice balance between him and Alex Cochrane. While the latter is a more cultured footballer who we could see playing as an inverted full-back in possession, Lembikisa will stretch the game and provide pace and directness.

In my view, it is between Calem Nieuwenhof and Aidan Denholm for a midfield spot beside Jorge Grant and Beni Baningime. My preference would be Denholm's all-action, energetic style but with the team set to dominate the ball Naismith will likely prefer the Australian's controlling qualities.

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

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Hearts Standard:

After deploying a 3-4-3 formation against The Spartans at the weekend, I think we can expect Naismith to revert to the 3-5-2 shape we’ve become accustomed to in recent months.  

The question of who starts between the sticks is an intriguing one after Craig Gordon made his long-awaited comeback at Ainslie Park on Saturday. The 41-year-old could do nothing about James Craigen’s spectacular equaliser and gave a good account of himself, even if he wasn’t tested all that much. A start in the league is the obvious next step, and I can’t see Naismith interrupting the Hearts legend’s comeback by relegating him back to the bench immediately. 

The defence, meanwhile, pretty much picks itself with Kye Rowles and Nathaniel Atkinson representing Australia at the Asian Cup. We can surely expect to see a back three of Frankie Kent, Craig Halkett and Stephen Kingsley, with Alex Cochrane taking up his usual berth at left wing-back. January addition Dexter Lembikisa impressed during his cameo off the bench against Spartans, and the right wing-back is surely deserving of a first start in maroon. 

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I think we’ll see Beni Baningime in the No.6 role, with Calem Nieuwenhof and Jorge Grant ahead of him. The Aussie was rested for Saturday’s cup tie but Naismith is a big fan of the central midfielder, who starts almost every game. Grant, meanwhile, grabbed an assist against Spartans, but he is also the only available playmaker in the squad with Barrie McKay sidelined and Alex Lowry back at Rangers. 

Lawrence Shankland’s return to training on Monday would suggest that he is back in contention and unless he is severely lacking fitness after missing a few training sessions – something that feels highly unlikely – the No.9 will surely be given the nod. Kyosuke Tagawa’s performance against The Spartans didn’t do the Japanese any favours, while Kenneth Vargas’ third goal in as many games makes the Costa Rican a shoo-in to start against Dundee.

Predicted line-up: Gordon; Kent, Halkett, Kingsley; Baningime; Lembikisa, Nieuwenhof, Grant, Cochrane; Shankland, Vargas.