'Tough run of fixtures presents almighty test for floundering Dons'

Liam McLeod, BBC Sport Scotland

With the international break now over, the spotlight returns to the domestic scene and the match of the Premiership weekend is undoubtedly at Tynecastle Park where a beleaguered Hearts and Aberdeen go head to head at the start of a pivotal period for both clubs’ seasons.

Recent history tells you this will be a Hearts win. The home side ultimately comes out on top in this fixture but there are enough problems at both clubs to make this an extremely interesting tussle.

For Aberdeen, who have only beaten League 1 Stirling Albion so far this campaign, and even that was a struggle, between now and the next international window is going to be an almighty test as they also look at visits to Eintracht Frankfurt in Europe, Ross County in the League Cup quarter-finals and Rangers in the league.

The performances so far this season are not good enough to take anything from that set of fixtures.

Manager Barry Robson’s stint in the role began like a train but a combination of losing a handful of top-class performers from last season and a host of new arrivals from all corners of Europe has left them floundering.

It hasn’t been lost on the Aberdeen supporters that former favourite Ylber Ramadani has been turning in man-of-the-match performances in Serie A with Lecce and helping Albania beat Robert Lewandowski’s Poland while his old club toils. He wasn’t replaced, though it wasn’t a lack of trying that left that big hole in the Pittodrie squad.

Four games into the season and Aberdeen are already eight points behind leaders Celtic but perhaps more worryingly, are being kept off the bottom by a single goal scored with 12th-place St Johnstone at least showing dogged spirit in draws at Celtic Park and against Dundee in their last two games.

Robson insisted “we’ll be fine” after the 2-0 home defeat by Hibernian. When attention returns to the international business in October he and the supporters will know if that’s true or not.