It was no surprise that Liam Boyce was not in the starting eleven for Hearts’ poorest displays of the season at Pittodrie and Fir Park. 

The Jambos top scorer brings much more than just goals to the side and at the end of 80 minutes against St Mirren, he is ready to lead the team out at Celtic Park. 

When teams visit venues like Ibrox or Celtic Park it is vital to have certain things in the armoury.

One is a frontman who is able to hold the ball up and is clever enough to buy fouls. Another is a top-class goalkeeper to foil the opposition forwards. Pacy attackers in the ranks are also vital, so when camped inside the team’s own half it is always a threat on the counterattack. Finally, a team needs to have players who are comfortable in possession. 

On paper, Hearts appear to have all these weapons which increase your chances of travelling along the M8 and actually having a shot at taking three points back home.

Too many times in the past, Hearts teams have arrived in Glasgow and have looked beaten before the game has even kicked off, now however Boyce believes Hearts have nothing to fear ahead of their trip to the East End of Glasgow. 

cinch Premiership – Heart of Midlothian v Aberdeen 22/8/2021. Hearts play host to Aberdeen in the cinch Premiership at Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh, Midlothian. Pic shows: Hearts’ Irish International, Liam Boyce, brings the ball upfield. Credit: Ian Jacobs

“We’ve had a great start to the season. I think two bad performances thrown in amongst it all, but we know we are in a good place,” Boyce said. 

“The way we’ve been playing we believe in what we’re doing no matter what the situation is. Even Saturday in the first half it was a tougher game, we had a couple of chances and we kept doing what we’re good at and we know we are good at, and it eventually paid off, we got our goal. We will go into this game the same, playing the way we want to and force ourselves on the game.

“We beat them first game of the season and it was a big win. When it came to that cup game, the first half they dominated us, and we couldn’t really get out. We changed formation in the second half and then we started to believe in ourselves a bit more. 

“We were a bit braver in our possession and getting close to people. From our formation we were able to get closer to people, the second half was good to see that worked.”

Hearts haven’t won a league match at Celtic Park since 2007 and Boyce, who has previously played against the Old Firm with Ross County, finds the game much more enjoyable when playing for a side that believes they can come out victorious. 

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson said that Hearts would “have a go” on Thursday night which is bound to please his star striker, who will arrive at Parkhead hoping to add his impressive total of six league goals. 

“I’ve played in teams that have went and set up defensively,” Boyce explained. “It’s just more enjoyable playing in a team that believes they can go on and win the game. 

“Obviously some teams set up to defend and try nick a goal, we done it with Ross County once and we were winning 1-0. I was playing centre midfield that day, but it’s just more enjoyable when you’re not trying to hold off two or three people and waiting for someone to come and run off you. 

“As I keep saying, as a player, it’s just more enjoyable when you’re in a position to play one-two’s and not sitting back, worrying about the other team, you instead need to go and impose yourself on the other team.

“We’ve no reason not to believe in ourselves. Apart from the Motherwell and Aberdeen games where we didn’t show what we can do, against every other team we’ve had spells in the game.”

Celtic v Hearts at Celtic Park. Kick off at 7.45pm.

Actiomn from Hearts v Celtic at Tynecastle 18th December 2019
Action from Hearts v Celtic at Tynecastle 18th December 2019 Photo: Live Edinburgh News