Seconds please

Tynecastle Hearts could be second by tonight if they pack up three points for the trip back from Aberdeen. However, Jim Jefferies is more bothered about securing third in the SPL. Hearts are two points behind Rangers and 18 points clear of Kilmarnock in fourth-place. Thanks to 13 wins from their last 16 SPL games and, a win over Craig Brown's Aberdeen will see them move a point above Rangers in the table. Jefferies believes the prospect of making it to second in the table will spur on his side, but knows Rangers, who play St Johnstone on Sunday and have two games in hand ahead of the weekend's games, could be back above them tomorrow evening. He said: "The fact we could go second on Saturday, albeit for 24 hours, makes it a bigger incentive for us. It would be nice to be in that position, even if just for 24 hours. If Rangers go back on top we're still keeping on their coat tails. If we get the third place tied up - and it's still not a foregone conclusion - we've got to make sure we can win as many games as we can and then we can see what we can do. If we're keeping in touch with them it will give us something to go and play for. Who knows what can happen? We haven't been shouting about it (finishing second), but what we've got to do is go and try and achieve it."

Clubs around Rangers see their success in progressing to the last 16 of the Europa League as an extra burden to an already congested fixture schedule. Jefferies believes Walter Smith's side can cope with the challenges presented by competing on four fronts, but Aberdeen boss Brown has said Hearts can finish above Rangers this season. Jefferies said: "It's all right Craig saying it, we've got to prove him right. The only way to do that is by winning games."

Ex Scotland manager, Brown had an uncomfortable seat on the eve of officially taking over at Aberdeen as Hearts handed out a 5-0 thrashing to his new club. Both Brown and assistant Archie Knox could not stay away from the away dug out as they tried in vain to salvage something from the game. Brown saw Aberdeen at their worst on that night but he has rejuvenated the Dons and they have climbed to ninth place in the table. Jefferies said: "It's a different team. You can forget the 5-0. We started that game fantastically well, but we knew all along that the next time we played them things would be different. They're now looking above, trying to make a late run to get into the top six. That speaks volumes to the job Craig and Archie have done. It will be a hard game but we've done well up there in the last two or three games and hopefully we can continue that."

Hearts head to Pittodrie without Ian Black and Ruben Palazuelos (both suspended) and the injured Kevin Kyle (groin), Calum Elliot (knee) and David Obua (shin). There are still doubts over Lee Wallace (bruised ankle) while Suso Santana could also struggle to be fit. Palazuelos deputised for Wallace at left-back earlier this season, so Jefferies could be forced into a reshuffle if the Scotland defender fails to be fit for the game.