Steven Naismith has challenged Hearts to assert their authority early on in Sunday’s cinch Premiership showdown with Celtic at Tynecastle.

The table-topping Hoops are yet to lose a league game since Brendan Rodgers returned to Parkhead in the summer and are hot favourites to leave Edinburgh with another three points.

But Naismith is confident his team can make things uncomfortable for the champions if they start strongly.

“At the start of the game, who is going to stamp their authority on it?” said the Hearts boss. “You’re either going to go into an attacking point or a defensive point.

“You need to try and get the advantage of that. Being disciplined out of possession is also important. The biggest thing that the Old Firm have is they have real quality where you can make one mistake in the game and it will cost you because their quality in the final third is so good.

“We also need to be confident in possession because I’ve played in games where if you’re not good in possession and you keep losing possession quickly, it becomes a long afternoon. You need to be brave and comfortable on the ball when you get it.”

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After a difficult start to the season, Hearts won three of their last five matches before the international break. Naismith feels his team are equipped to go toe-to-toe with Celtic.

“This is a different game to when we played Motherwell at home, Dundee away or Kilmarnock home or away,” he said. “It’s going to give me an indication – as a group and individually – of whether we can compete at this level.

“All the signs since I’ve been involved with the coaching side of it here is that we can compete. We are growing, we’re getting better. It’s not just about surviving in the game and hoping to counter them, it’s about causing them problems when we have the ball and being disciplined and resilient when we don’t have it.”

Celtic head to Tynecastle having won each of their last five league matches before the international break.

“Celtic have had change over the summer,” said Naismith. “There are loads of aspects of their game that are very similar to what they were under Ange Postecoglou but there are some small changes.

“I think, with the new recruits, they’ve taken a bit of time to build the relationships between the players but especially in the last two or three weeks before the break I think you could see they’re starting to click and they understand each other.

“They’ll have a threat. They play on the front foot and try and dominate games but we’re confident we can put on a show and take the points from the game.”