Dundee boss Paul Hartley admits there is no such thing as an easy game against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park – especially as Saints will have a point or two to prove after the last time the sides met.
On that occasion, the Dark Blues dished out a Hogmanay hiding to the Perth side winning 3-0 at Dens thanks to strikes from Faissal El Bakhtaoui, Kosta Gadzhalov and a Steven Anderson own goal.
Now the two teams will meet once more on St Johnstone’s home turf and Hartley is under no illusions that his side will have to be at their best again if they hope to win the Tayside derby bragging rights as well as maintain their top six challenge.
The manager said: “We were excellent that day (Hogmanay).
“So we are expecting a tough game against a very well organised St Johnstone team.
“They have always been a top six team so when we go to McDiarmid, we know what to expect.
“We know the style they will play and we expect another hard game.
“It is a local derby and hopefully we will take a large travelling support.
“It is a big game for us and I am sure they will be saying the same.
“But we were excellent the last game we played here against them and hopefully we can repeat that sort of performance although we know Saints will be up for it.”
Dundee will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing defeat against Partick Thistle at home two Wednesdays ago with Hartley hoping the break last weekend will have done his players a power of good.
He said: “We weren’t too bad against Partick. The quality on the ball maybe wasn’t there but they worked hard and the attitude was right.
“They pressed the game in the second half.
“We have had a little break so hopefully the players are raring to go again.”
As expected, Julen Etxabeguren who was stretchered off against the Jags had an operation on his Achilles yesterday morning and is facing several months on the sidelines.
However, Hartley does have options waiting in the wings to take his place in the side in the shape of Kosta Gadzhalov and Kevin Gomis.
He said: “It is a shame for Julen as he had been playing well.
“I have another couple of centre-halves so we are well covered in that area.
“I think the back four has been working pretty well so we are happy with that just now.
“We will look at it but I think we will stay with a back four.”
Meanwhile, Marc Klok is set to return to the squad for the St Johnstone game.
The Dutchman who was signed at the end of the January transfer window has featured twice for the first team but in recent weeks has been turning out for the club’s development side.
Hartley added: “Marc will be in the squad for Saturday.
“We have just been using him in Under-20s matches as he has not played a lot of football recently.
“But he has had some game time and will be in the squad for St Johnstone.”