Hearts focus on challenge for title but play down Robson link

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The Independent Football

Hearts won 4-2 away against the same opponents on the opening day of the season to set them on their way to an unbeaten run of 11 league games to date. A victory tonight will allay fears that the wheels are about to come off their title challenge because of the turmoil of the past few days. But anything less and the knives will be out for Romanov before Saturday's testing visit across Edinburgh to face Hibernian.

Hearts face Kilmarnock without their captain, Steven Pressley, who is suspended, while his Scottish international team-mate, Paul Hartley, is doubtful through injury. John McGlynn, Hearts' interim manager, will make a late decision on whether Ibrahim Tall or Christophe Berra will replace Pressley in the centre of the defence.

Craig Gordon, Hearts' Scotland goalkeeper, provided an insight yesterday into the squad's mentality after they heard the news that Burley had gone. "It totally deflated the team. I'm sure, like myself, many people will be devastated, as they could see how well the team was playing for the manager. It was a pleasure to play for him."

One player, Rudi Skacel, was reportedly rebuked by Romanov for displaying a "For the Gaffer" T-shirt, in reference to Burley, after scoring last Saturday.

Elsewhere tonight, Celtic host Motherwell, against whom they drew 4-4 on the opening day, looking to close the three-point gap behind Hearts. Rangers, whose opening-day 3-0 home win against Livingston flattered to deceive, get a chance, at Livi, to lift their fortunes. But the champions will be without their first-choice centre-halves, Julien Rodriguez and Soto Kyrgiakos.

* Scotland will meet the USA in a friendly at Hampden Park on 12 November. The USA, who will play in next year's World Cup, have played on Scottish soil only once, in 1952, losing 6-0.

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