CRAIG Gordon believes this Sunday he will face the best Hearts side since the days he earned a crust at Tynecastle.

Back in the 2005/06 season, the team Celtic’s now goalkeeper played for, and supported, finished second in the Premier League and won the Scottish Cup. The club's owner, a certain Vladimir Romanov, might have been a bit unconventional but the team at that time were excellent.

Hearts sit top of the league, have had a few days off since beating Dundee on Tuesday, while Celtic have been at work in Germany, and so the old Jambos are quite right to fancy their chances.

Not that the one of the best goalies Tynecastle ever loved thinks that way.

Gordon and Celtic have been here before. Beaten in Europe and supposedly tired, they have always in the past found a way to win. It’s a trait the champions are keen to hold onto. Sunday, however, is going to be one hell of as challenge.

“Yeah, we’ve been away and lost but we won’t concern ourselves too much with what they think,” said Gordon. “The morale in our group is still very good, regardless of what has happened in Germany or earlier in the season.

“We feel we are making progress and we’re happy with where we are going in to the game.

“It doesn’t matter what Hearts think. It will be up to us. We will be confident on Sunday regardless of what happened in Germany. We’ve been playing well domestically in the last few weeks and it’s about continuing that form on the home front.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted against Leipzig but we always look to keep the confidence high within the group no matter what, and we’ve done that over the years after European games.

“It’s a semi-final – we don’t need any more motivation. It doesn’t matter if we’ve got injuries, or a few more injuries after Leipzig, if we want to win trophies then we need to use the whole squad. There are guys waiting in the wings who are desperate to get a show.”

Sunday is going to be one of the great days of the season. Murrayfield will host Scottish football’s biggest crowd for 30 years. It’s a 50/50 game. There will be some fine players on display and all of them are going to have plenty to play for.

Gordon admitted: “It’s going to be some occasion. It’s close to being sold out so it will be a great atmosphere to be involved in. Ultimately we want to go there and win the game.

“We’ve got experience of playing in big matches in front of huge crowds. It’s the case every week at Celtic Park, so the chance to go to Murrayfield and play in that environment is something we are looking forward to.

“We’ve thrived in those kinds of atmospheres in recent years and hopefully it will inspire us again this weekend.”

Hearts have not fluked their way to the head off the class. Craig Levein has a strong, clever and organised team which knows how to play football and are as confident as they’ve ever been.

Or at least they should be.

Gordon played in a truly fine Hearts side containing players now seen as legends of Gorgie. They were difficult to beat. So is the 2018 side.

The Celtic man said: “They’ve had a great start and they enjoyed another good result in midweek. We expected them to win but they have put themselves in a great position early in the season,

“There’s an awful long way to go in the season though. We play them twice in quick succession and from out point of view it’s a chance to put a marker down. We want to win a few games in a row and move things forward.

“How does this Hearts team compare to the one I played in? Time will tell. They are certainly built around a similar structure in that they are solid and difficult to beat, with a few experience guys up front.

“Back then we had Edgaras Jankauskas, Roman Bednar, Rudi Skacel scoring a lot of goals from midfield. There was a lot of physicality in the side as well.

“There’s similar characteristics with the team today. They are set up to be solid with a bit of pace to hurt teams. They have certainly started the season really well but we will be looking to beat them.”