YOU have to go back to 2014 to find the last time both Hearts and Hibernian went into an Edinburgh Derby in such a sorry state. The 2013/14 season was an ignomious campaign for the two capital clubs; both were relegated at the end of a deeply disappointing season.

Things aren't quite as bleak this time around but to be perfectly honest, neither set of supporters will be pleased at recent events at their respective clubs. Hearts have picked up just three points out of the last 33 available to them going back to last season and are propping up the table at this early stage of the season, while Hibs have won just one of their previous 10 Premiership fixtures.

Ahead of Sunday's match at Easter Road, there is a palpable sense that a defeat could tip either club's supporters over the edge. Hearts owner Ann Budge reiterated her support for Craig Levein earlier in the week and given Paul Heckingbottom's excellent start to life in Leith last season, one would imagine there remains a certain amount of goodwill towards the Englishman in the Hibernian boardroom. It's unlikely that either manager will lose their job after Sunday's game, but there is no question that both are in desparate need of a win.

So, what should we expect to happen?


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Obviously, both Hearts and Hibs have serious issues at both ends of the pitch; otherwise, the two teams wouldn't find themselves in such poor positions five games into the new season. Perhaps the most pressing issues facing both managers, though, can be found in defence.

Hibernian, in particular, have struggled at the back so far this season. Heckingbottom's team have conceded the joint-most goals in the league and easily the most shots. They have the lowest tackling success rate, make the fewest interceptions and have the highest expected goals against (xGA) of any top-flight side. Even if we treat the 6-1 defeat at Ibrox - where Hibs faced 33 shots over the 90 minutes - as a freak occurence and discount it, Hibs still have the highest shots against per 90 minutes of any Premiership team with 16.25.

We've previously written about the problems in Hibernian's midfield that have accentuated these issues. All too often, teams can steamrolller throught the heart of this Hibs team virtually unopposed, which leads to good chances. The addition of Jason Naismith on loan and the return from injury of centre-back Ryan Porteous should provide Hibs with a much-needed upgrade in this area of the pitch. But luckily for Heckingbottom, Sunday's opponents also struggle to win the ball back.

Hibernian are the worst team, defensively-speaking, in the league so far this season but Hearts aren't too far behind them. Levein's team have a near-identical interception rate and have the third-lowest defensive duels success rate in the league. And, lest we forget, Hearts have already shipped 11 goals in just five matches. Hearts might not be as bad as their rivals in this regard - that bar is particularly low - but things are far from rosey in Gorgie.

Much has been written about Hearts' troubles in front of goal this season and while there are obvious issues, these have perhaps been overstated. After all, Levein's side have scored seven league goals so far this season; only Celtic, Rangers, Motherwell and Livingston have found the net more. The stats bear this out, too: Hearts' total xG from their opening five games sits at 7.27, which is the fifth-best in the league. Hearts' problem is not that they are failing to create chances or that they suffer from a profligacy in front of goal: there main issues lie further back. The return of Steven Naismith to the starting line-up, too, should help in this regard.


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The same cannot be said of Heckingbottom's team. Four goals from five games is a poor return for a club with European pretensions - only St Mirren have scored fewer this season - and not one of their forwards can be said to be in form. The jury is out on Christian Doidge while Flo Kamberi has struggled in front of goal for over a season now. The Swiss striker had a goals per 90 minutes ratio of 0.27 in the league last season, placing him outside of the top 40 players in the Premiership in this regard.

Hibs might well struggle in both boxes, but the one bright spark has been in their ability to retain the ball in midfield. Only Celtic and Rangers average more passses per game than Heckingbottom's team do, and their overall passing accuracy of 80.9% is the fourth-highest total in the league.

Ultimately, these stats point to a game that will be fairly open on Sunday. With neither side defending particularly adequately we should expect chances at both ends. Hibernian are likely to control the midfield when in possession but could struggle to cope with Hearts' physicality in the middle of the park if and when they lose the ball. Hearts have the edge in attack and it seems unlikely that Hibs will be able to keep them out at Easter Road, but the home side can take some solace from the fact that Levein's team have their own defensive issues that need sorted out.