Robbie Neilson, the Hearts head coach, has dismissed the notion that the Edinburgh derby is devalued by its protagonists playing in the SPFL Championship.

Indeed, he believes the fixture could take place in the East of Scotland League and still be a highlight of the country's football calendar.

The city rivals will meet for the first time this season on Sunday; the first time that Hearts and Hibernian have faced each other in a league match outside the top tier, with both clubs suffering relegation from the SPFL Premiership last term. However, that has done nothing to diminish the anticipation of the capital derby among fans, with Tynecastle sold out already.

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That does not surprise Neilson. The coach is convinced that fans would turn out even if the rival clubs were meeting in the amateur leagues. "Once the boys are out on the pitch they'll see it's a full house and that it doesn't matter if it's the Premiership or the East of Scotland League," said Neilson, who has confirmed that he recalled goalkeeper Jack Hamilton from a loan at Stenhousemuir to cover for the injured Neil Alexander.

"If it's Hearts against Hibs then everyone is at it. It's still an intense atmosphere. It's going to be a huge game whether it's in the Championship or not.

"It doesn't matter what division the club is in, or what position you are in - fighting at the top of the league or battling at the bottom - it is the same. It's about going in there and winning the game."

The Hearts coach has emphasised to his players the importance of remaining disciplined amid the derby fervour. As a player Neilson was no stranger to a meaty challenge against Hibs during his 10 years as a player at Tynecastle but he has acknowledged that early "markers" are a thing of the past.

"I know the passion of it and you need to try to keep a lid on it and do what you are there to do; go out and perform," said the 34-year-old. "If tackles are flying about, it can be difficult to keep your cool. But I don't think it's anywhere near as physical as it was in years gone by. People used to go in there and lay down markers.

"I remember [former Hearts full-back] Walter Kidd, when I was very young, was one of those guys. That has drifted out of the game. You can't do that any more - your first tackle could get you booked and you're in trouble for the rest of the game. It's not as physical as it used to be, but the passion is still there and it's important nobody gets carried away."