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Dundee’s welcome conundrum for crunch Hibs clash – will Ricki Lamie or ‘new signing’ Antonio Portales start?

Does manager Tony Docherty change tack for Saturday's Easter Road trip? Courier Sport looks at the options available for the Dark Blues boss.

Dundee boss Tony Docherty on the sidelines carrying a folder
Dundee boss Tony Docherty. Image: SNS

The race for the top six is well and truly on.

And Dundee have given themselves a head start on the competition with eight games until the split.

Back-to-back wins over St Johnstone and Ross County have pushed them five points ahead of the chasing pack.

Aberdeen and Hibs are there with Motherwell one point further back.

That brace of victories has also brought the Dark Blues to within touching distance of St Mirren in front and Kilmarnock in fourth, five points ahead.

Dundee's Dara Costelloe celebrates after Jordan McGhee scored to make it 2-1.
Dara Costelloe celebrates as Dundee head for victory. Image: SNS.

This Saturday promises to be one of the most crucial days of the Premiership season.

Dundee head to Hibs knowing victory would propel them eight points ahead of their opponents as well as gaining advantage over either Kilmarnock or Aberdeen, who face each other at the same time.

A big weekend for the Dark Blues.

So how will Tony Docherty approach the clash at Easter Road?

He has key men back available in defence after injury and plenty of options to choose from.

Courier Sport takes a look at how the Dee defence could line up.

Dundee FC players back

Aaron Donnelly returned and excelled in the last two matches at centre-back alongside skipper Joe Shaughnessy.

Ricki Lamie made his return from a hamstring injury from the bench, a late sub playing a part in the winner against St Johnstone and then coming on to shore up the backline against County.

Ricki Lamie and Elie Youan.
Ricki Lamie is back available after injury. Image: SNS

And this week saw the return to training of Mexican Antonio Portales after an even lengthier time out with his own hamstring issue.

The Mexican made a big impact when he returned from a different injury at Easter Road in September.

Will Antonio Portales make Dundee return?

Docherty is delighted to have the defender back in the squad.

“Getting Antonio back will be like a new signing,” the Dens boss said.

“He was a huge part of us having five clean sheets in six games earlier in the season so we’re delighted to have him back.

“Antonio deserves real credit because he’s back two weeks earlier than expected and that’s down to the amount of work he’s put in.

Dundee FC defender Antonio Portales gets a foot in on Hibs midfielder Joe Newell. Image: SNS
Dundee FC defender Antonio Portales gets a foot in on Hibs midfielder Joe Newell. Image: SNS

“He’s great character, the lads all love him so seeing him out training again gave everyone a massive lift.

“We’ll see how he is as the week goes on and keep assessing where he is.

“But the last time when he came back after five weeks out, he was back early and was able to play straight away.

“We’ll see how things pan out but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s available for the weekend.”

At centre-back there is also Ryan Astley, recently signed from Everton. His introduction to the side has been slow, however, making just one substitute appearance so far.

Lee Ashcroft, meanwhile, has gone out on loan to Raith Rovers.


Docherty has options at centre-back. The full-back slots, though, are pretty much locked in already.

Jordan McGhee has been in fine form on the right while Owen Beck is one of the stars of the team on the left.

If he’s not able to get over the slight groin injury that forced him off last time out, Owen Dodgson is ready to take his place.

Owen Beck enjoyed a stellar first half of the season. Image: SNS
Owen Beck at Easter Road earlier in the season. Image: SNS

Rather than ‘who’, the bigger questions is ‘how’ Docherty sets up.

Will Beck and McGhee be full-backs or wing-backs?

Dundee’s formation has been a changing one lately. The first-half of the season saw 3-5-2 used regularly but injuries in recent weeks saw the manager change things.

He started against St Johnstone with a 4-4-2 before switching to 4-3-3 for the second half, which brought victory.

And Docherty stuck with that line-up to start with against Ross County. Once they went 2-0 up, though, Lamie was sent on as Dundee moved to a back three to see the game out.

Welcome conundrum for Docherty

A trip away to Easter Road brings bigger threats than a home match against a struggling Ross County side.

With that in mind, will Docherty change things up for Hibs?

With injuries clearing up, he’s now got the options to keep opponents guessing.

A back three would allow one of Lamie or Portales to come back into the starting XI while keeping Shaughnessy and Donnelly. It also frees up Beck to raid down the left.

Tony Docherty urges on his Dundee players at Easter Road in September.
Tony Docherty pushes on his Dundee players at Easter Road in September. Image: SNS

And keeps the midfield three together but allows Docherty to play two strikers.

However, 4-3-3 worked well against St Johnstone and Ross County…

A conundrum for the manager – but one he’s delighted to have.

“I’ve got the players and the squad to change between a four and a three,” Docherty said.

“Antonio adds to the options we have and increases that flexibility.

“The credit for the way we’ve been able to change things up has to go to the players because it’s OK me putting up a shape, they’re the ones who have to take in on board and carry it out.”

Manager out to ‘rectify’ one thing against Hibs

He added: “Hibs will be a tough, tough game.

Antonio Portales was in fine form once more for Dundee. Image: SNS
Dundee have missed Antonio Portales in recent weeks. Image: SNS

“At the moment we’re sitting at one point from six available from Hibs, so that’s something we’re going to try and rectify.

“We understand they’re a good side, a possession-based side with a very expansive style.

“They’re at home in front of a demanding crowd and haven’t won a league game in eight.

“They’ve got real strengths, particularly in the forward areas. The game plan we’ve been working on, we’ll certainly have to be at our best to pick up anything from Easter Road.

“But it’s great to go into it on the back of back-to-back victories.”