Celtic and Rangers will use fixtures against minnows in this weekend's Scottish Cup fourth round to give experience to youngsters, and ease recovering players back into action, but the stand-out tie – both in sporting and emotional terms – is this afternoon at Tynecastle, where Heart of Midlothian host Motherwell. Hearts were winners two seasons ago but have been shadows of themselves for much of the time since. Motherwell, currently third in the SPL, will play their first game since the death on the pitch of Phil O'Donnell a fortnight ago.
Motherwell's last silverware came in the Scottish Cup in 1991. O'Donnell, then 19, was among the scorers in a 4-3 extra-time win over Dundee United. The club announced yesterday that they will rename the main stand at Fir Park in honour of their former captain, who died aged 35 from heart failure.
Motherwell will wear special strips embroidered with O'Donnell's autograph today. Hearts will honour the late midfielder with a commemorative match programme cover (below) dedicated to him.
Motherwell have risen to third place behind Celtic and Rangers under the guidance of Mark McGhee, who is among the favourites to become Scotland's next manager. They beat Hearts 2-1 in their last meeting, at Tynecastle last month. Hearts have won just one of their last 13 league games.
Today's match is one of three all-SPL ties. Mixu Paatelainen makes his debut today as Hibernian's new manager at home to Inverness, and Falkirk host Aberdeen.
Three non-league sides remain in the last 32. Cove Rangers and Huntly of the Highland League, respectively host Ross County and Dundee; and Linlithgow Rose, a junior club from the East Region Super League, travel to Queen of the South. There is more shock potential at Clyde, who sensationally beat Celtic on Roy Keane's debut two years ago, where today's visitors are Dundee United, although Colin Hendry's team are struggling in the First Division just as Craig Levein's SPL outfit are finding their form again.
Celtic face Stirling Albion, who are adrift at the bottom of the First Division. Japan's Shunsuke Nakamura, out since October with a knee injury, is likely to make his Celtic comeback, and Germany's Andreas Hinkel should make his debut, at right-back after moving from Seville.
Tomorrow, Rangers host East Stirlingshire, the first rung on Sir Alex Ferguson's managerial career but now eighth of 10 in the Third Division. Rangers' Walter Smith could give debuts to John Fleck, 16, Giorgos Efrem, 18, and Dean Furman, 19.Reuse content