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Sunday sees a battle between the last two clubs to finish third in the Scottish Premiership and Hibernian will want to avoid following in the footsteps of Motherwell, who collected two points from their opening six games last season after finishing third in 2019/20.
Motherwell ultimately slumped to a disappointing eighth last season, and Hibs will look to build on their own third-place finish rather than regress as Motherwell did. For Motherwell, Sunday’s curtain raiser is an opportunity to avenge the Scottish Cup quarter-final defeat to Hibs in April, but their lukewarm pre-season will have done little to inspire confidence.
They have lost their two pre-season friendlies to Dumbarton and Millwall without scoring a goal, while they also fell to defeat against Airdrieonians in the Scottish League Cup group stages – although they did eventually top their group. Meanwhile, the Jack Ross-led Hibs recorded an impressive win against a reasonably strong Arsenal side in pre-season and will be confident going into Sunday’s clash.
Hibernian won easily at Fir Park last season, trouncing Motherwell 3-0 on their home patch, and while they may not win so comfortably this time around, they still should have enough to open their league account.
Motherwell’s defending in pre-season has not inspired confidence. Graham Alexander’s side shipped two goals on two occasions against lower-league opposition in the Scottish League Cup, running out 3-2 victors over Championship side Queen of the South and going down to a 2-0 defeat to League One side Airdrieonians. They also conceded against League One side Dumbarton in a pre-season friendly.
Motherwell additionally boasted the third-worst defence in the Scottish Premiership last season, with only Ross County and relegated Hamilton conceding more. Hibs, on the other hand, have conceded in each of their six pre-season friendlies, although they did manage one clean sheet against Andorran side FC Santa Coloma in a Europa Conference League qualifier.
However, they failed to keep their lowly opponents scoreless in Andorra and their defence doesn’t look watertight as they gear up for the new season. They may need to score twice to claim three points on Sunday, but they are more than capable of doing so against a porous Motherwell defence.
Kevin Nisbet enjoyed a fine campaign for Hibs last season, scoring 14 times in the league to finish as the club’s top scorer. The 24-year-old made three substitute appearances at Euro 2020 and scored his first international goal in a pre-tournament friendly against the Netherlands.
He recently netted his first European goal in a 3-0 win over FC Santa Coloma and scored in Hibs’ most recent friendly against Raith Rovers. Nisbet can continue a fine summer by helping Hibs to a perfect start to their league campaign with a victory at Fir Park on Sunday afternoon.
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