SUNDAY'S Edinburgh Derby will be huge for the under-pressure managers in each dugout. Craig Levein's Hearts sit rock bottom of the Premiership five games into the new season, while Hibernian have won just one of their last 11 league games going back to last season.

Both of the capital clubs are suffering crises and a win would go a huge way to relieving the increasing pressure on Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom. But while the Leith club's coach still surely has time to redeem himself at Hibs, given his excellent start to life at the club, the same cannot be said of Levein.

The former Scotland boss has been in charge of first-team affairs at Tynecastle for over two years now and yet there are few signs of tangible progress. If anything, Hearts are regressing under his leadership. Hearts' 3-0 defeat to Celtic in last November's League Cup semi-final proved to be a turning point in Levein's tenure and the Gorgie club have never looked the same since.


READ MORE: Hearts lead Hibernian in race to bottom of the league

Levein's side came flying out of the traps at the beginning of last season and found themselves in the upper echelons of the table at the start of the campaign. But then the semi-final came around and the wheels well and truly came off.

There are mitigating factors at play but ultimately, Levein must shoulder the responsibility for Hearts' demise. The former Dundee United manager has suffered a remarkable amount of serious injuries to key players over the last year or so but that does not excuse the woeful showings Hearts have been offering up regularly since November 2018.

Since that defeat to Celtic, Hearts have picked up 28 points in 33 Premiership games. That works out at 0.8 points-per-game (PPG) which, to be clear, is relegation form. Levein's predecessor Ian Cathro, for example, was averaging a PPG of 1 and that was deemed unsatisfactory enough to get rid of him.

Extrapolated over the course of 38 games, a PPG of 0.8 works out at 32 points. In four of the last five seasons, that would have resulted in a relegation play-off at best. St Mirren finished in 11th last season on 33 points. Partick Thistle did the exact same the previous campaign. In the 2016/17 season, Inverness chalked up 34 points, finished 12th and were automatically relegated.

For a club of Hearts' size, with the resources they can draw on, this is simply unacceptable. At this point, this is far more than a sticky patch for the Tynecastle club. It's been almost a full calendar year since Levein had them playing at the level that they really should be. And the dour, insipid style of play certainly hasn't done much to endear Levein to the Tynecastle crowd.


READ MORE: Christophe Berra believes Hearts players have been affected by mass protest outside Tynecastle

Hearts' brilliant start to the 2018/19 campaign and their run to the Scottish Cup final have papered over many of the cracks in this team. And, lest we forget, Levein's side didn't exactly have the most daunting run to Hampden last year. In the quarter-finals, Hearts eventually disposed of Partick Thistle - who only survived relegation to League One on the final day of the Championship season - by scraping a 2-1 win a Tynecastle after drawing the initial tie at Firhill. Then, in the semi-final, Hearts were paired with another Championship side in Inverness.

A win in Sunday's derby could prolong Levein's stay of execution but it is hard to envisage the 54-year-old turning things around. After the scenes at Tynecastle in the immediate aftermath of Hearts' 3-2 defeat to Motherwell last Saturday, when a group of disgruntled fans made sure that Levein knew precisely how they felt, it felt like the Hearts boss had hit the point of no return. The club's owner, Ann Budge, has a difficult decision to make due to her excellent personal relationship with Levein but when the Hearts boss' record over the last year or so is examined, it becomes straightforward and obvious. Hearts have been sliding for a long time now and so long as Levein remains at the helm, they will continue to do so.