Soufian El Hassnaoui has spent so long in the stands at Tynecastle this season that he is beginning to sound like a seasoned fan.

The Hearts forward has still to make his debut for the club, having instead spent the first weeks of the campaign watching from the sidelines. He now does a passable impression of a supporter.

"I think Hearts and Rangers have to be the teams at the top of the league," said the 24-year-old. "Will Hibs be there too? No. I don't think Hibs have enough quality to do it."

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The Dutch-Moroccan spoke softly yesterday but his words will have felt like a stern slap in the face for Hibs. The Easter Road side are not yet in a position to made their riposte, since Hearts remain well out of reach at the top of the SPFL Championship table. They will hope to remain there following their meeting with Falkirk.

As visitors to Tynecastle today, Falkirk might expect to be welcomed warmly given that their last league outing ended in a win against Hibs. However, such courtesy will come to an end as soon as Hearts' players get the chance to extend their unbeaten start to the campaign.

"I expected us to do well because I saw in training we had a lot of good young players and most of them will only get better," said El Hassnaoui, who could make his debut this afternoon. "We all work hard for each other and I think this year can be a great year for us."

El Hassnaoui arrived on a three-year contract from Sparta Rotterdam during the close season. He has been waylaid by an existing groin injury, but could get back on track at Tynecastle today following injuries suffered by forwards James Keatings and Jordan McGhee earlier this week.

"It has been frustrating, naturally. I came in with a groin problem," said the forward. "It was almost fixed but I then had more problems and I continued to struggle. But at the end hard work pays off and I am ready.

"I want to make up for lost time. I just have to do my best and I think I'll be fine."