Hearts

Hearts vs Dundee United

, KO: 19:45 Jul 12, 2019, Tynecastle
Dundee United

IT seems like only yesterday that Dundee United were bringing the curtain down on the last Scottish season with their shoot-out defeat by St Mirren in the play-off final.

Now they are preparing to kick off the new campaign by travelling to Tynecastle for what promises to be the tie of the Betfred Cup group stage.

Missing out on a return to the Premiership will have stung for boss Robbie Neilson but he now has the chance to start this season on a high with a win over his old club.

Neilson's spell in charge of the Jambos was a huge success as he led them to a Championship title procession in 2015 despite the second tier also containing Rangers and city rivals Hibs.

They finished a whopping 21 points clear that season and Neilson kept them on the up in the Premiership, with Hearts sitting second when he moved south to MK Dons in 2016.

Despite that incredible achievement, some fans still moaned about Neilson when he was in the Tynecastle dugout, even flying a plane over the ground with a banner calling for him to be sacked.

So it would be sweet if he could lead United to victory at his old stomping ground and the Championship side certainly have a chance.

Neilson overhauled the Tannadice squad in January and has managed to keep hold of proven top-flight performers such as Mark Reynolds, Peter Pawlett and Osman Sow despite failing to seal a Premiership return.

He also pulled off a transfer coup by persuading deadly Ayr hitman Lawrence Shankland to move to United when the likes of Sunderland and Wigan were keen on him.

The Betfred Cup sparked Shankland's incredible 34-goal season at Ayr as he bagged seven group-stage goals last term, including two hat-tricks.

I wouldn't be surprised if he found the net again here, even though Hearts are a step up in class from the Morton, Stenhousemuir and Partick defences he faced a year ago.

The new boy is 7/4 with William Hill for anytime scorer and I'm sure a few punters will join me in staking a few quid on that.

Hearts also flew out of the traps last season, with a 13-game unbeaten run seeing them progress in the Betfred Cup and top the Premiership until October.

But injuries to key players saw them hit a slump in the new year and the Jambos could only finish sixth.

It looked like they might still end the campaign on a high after taking the lead in the Scottish Cup Final but Celtic hit back to beat them 2-1 and seal the treble Treble.

Those hard-to-please Tynecastle fans also gave Craig Levein plenty of stick towards the end of last season so he'll need to start this campaign well to stop the natives from getting restless again.

Key midfielder Arnaud Djoum will be a big loss this term after moving to Saudi Arabia but Levein has made some shrewd moves in the market.

Livingston's Craig Halkett will help them tighten up at the back while Northern Ireland striker Conor Washington should provide goals after his move from Sheffield United.

Jamie Walker will also bring the creative spark that was missing last season, if he can rediscover the form of his first spell at the club.

The winger flopped at Wigan, mainly due to injury, but if he's fit and flying then Walker will add plenty of goals and assists. He might be a good option to score here at 12/5 with William Hill.

Hearts weren't hugely convincing in their early group stage games last term, beating Cove 2-1 then seeing off Raith in a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw.

They might take a while to get going again and I wouldn't be too surprised if this clash ended in a stalemate, which is 13/4 with Marathonbet.

Steven Naismith has yet to seal a Jambos return and they never look as threatening a side without the Scotland star in the ranks. But Washington could conjure up a debut goal so try backing him for anytime scorer at 6/4 with William Hill.

It could be a bit cagey in the early exchanges and that lends value to the second period being the highest scoring half at 21/10 with Betway.

This match between Hearts and Dundee United will be played on Jul 12, 2019 and kick off at 19:45

Hearts vs Dundee United Betting Tips & Predictions
Draw at 90 mins
13/4
Marathonbet
Lawrence Shankland anytime scorer
7/4
William Hill
Second half the highest-scoring half
21/10
Betway

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