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Michael Smith wants to see brave Hearts in top of the table clash at Ibrox

Hearts of Midlothian v Celtic – cinch Premiership – Tynecastle Park
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Michael Smith believes Hearts must take a bold approach if they are to win Saturday’s top-of-the-table showdown with Rangers at Ibrox.

The Tynecastle side have not won in Govan for more than seven years and have suffered some heavy defeats in recent seasons.

With the chance to leapfrog their hosts at the top of the cinch Premiership if they emerge victorious, Smith is adamant his team must try to take the game to Rangers rather than sit back and soak up pressure.

He said: “A lot of teams go to places like Ibrox and just lie down, but we’re not going to do that. We’re going to give it a right go and see where it takes us.

“To come away with a result from there, you’ve got to give it a go. You can’t just sit back and take the pressure. We’ve got to be organised but we’ve also got to play football and take chances.”

Smith, who is in his fifth season at Hearts, believes the current squad is the strongest he has been involved with at Tynecastle. He is optimistic about their chances of maintaining their strong start to the campaign this weekend.

He said: “We’ve had a great start to the season and we’re unbeaten. I don’t think we can be anything other than confident. Over the past few years in Glasgow we haven’t been good enough, but hopefully we can go there and challenge.

“No one expected us to be unbeaten after this number of games. We know we have quality in the squad, so why can’t we continue it?”

Smith has been operating as right-wing-back in Hearts’ 3-4-3 formation this term, linking well with right-sided attacker Barrie McKay and also being given the freedom to drift into a central areas.

He said: “I enjoy this role. Me and Barrie have a good relationship on the right at the minute. He knows if I go inside, he’ll go wide. It’s working well.

“The gaffer trusts me to do it. It’s hard work but with the amount of possession we’re getting at the minute it’s easier for me to stay high up the pitch and I end up spending a lot of my time at centre-mid.

“Whoever has played behind me (on the right of defence) has done well and backed me up.”

Smith has declared himself fully fit for the trip to Ibrox after withdrawing from the Northern Ireland squad for their double-header away to Switzerland and Bulgaria over the past week.

The 33-year-old said: “I’m fine. I just needed a little break because I was picking up little niggly injuries here and there.

“I spoke to the gaffer and the Northern Ireland manager about it and decided to take that trip off. It was a big trip so it was a hard decision for me but I think in the long run it will benefit me.”

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