The Betfred Cup is back – and we kick off the 2019 competition tonight in Group A as Dundee United (7/2) travel to Tynecastle to take on last year’s beaten semi-finalists Hearts (7/10).
It’s worth bearing in mind that Craig Levein’s Jambos do start the season strongly. It was the men from the capital who set a searing early pace in the SPL after an unbeaten cruise through the Betfred Cup group stages before their season ran out of steam somewhat in the New Year.
This is a very different Hearts side, however. Six players have departed the first-team dressing room since the end of last campaign – but they’ve been replaced with four quality new faces.
The most interesting of the four is former QPR and Sheffield United forward Conor Washington. He was prolific south of the border in League One, but struggled for goals and games in the Championship, before being signed by Levein on a two-year deal this month. He could well be the goalscorer Hearts have been missing since Kyle Lafferty left for Rangers last summer.
What price for the Northern Irishman to bag on his competitive debut? That’s 5/4 anytime at Betfred, and a move attractive 4/1 to score first against a Dundee United side down on their luck with a 2015 League Cup trophy now a distant memory.
They are the early season Championship favourites though, at 2/1, despite parting ways with 10 of the players who missed out on promotion back to the SPL last season. There’s an added intrigue to this tie also as it brings former Hearts manager Robbie Neilsen back to Tynecastle – this time in the away dug out.
They also have new signing Lawrence Shankland ready and available for tonight. Last season’s Championship top scorer scored 34 goals in 41 games for Ayr United and will hope to add to those numbers in the tangerine of Dundee United. If you backed Shankland first or anytime consistently last term then you’ll have plenty of profit to invest again tonight (15/8 anytime or 6/1 first goal) on a player linked with Swansea City back in January.
Staying with the game itself, Dundee Utd’s pre-season fixtures suggest gelling a brand new team is a work in progress. A draw with East Fife and a defeat to a threadbare Dumbarton says they’ll have their work cut-out at Tynecastle tonight.