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Talking points for this weekend in Scottish football

We look at where the big stories may come from in the Saturday's fixtures.

Murrayfield: The iconic rugby venue hosts its first domestic football fixture on Saturday.
Murrayfield: The iconic rugby venue hosts its first domestic football fixture on Saturday. SNS

After a fortnight break for international football to take centre stage, domestic league action returns to the limelight this weekend.

While for some clubs the layoff proved a nuisance after promising starts to the campaign, for others it offered a chance to return to the drawing board.

Here we cast our eye over the weekend's action to see what stories could well be on everyone's lips come the Monday morning coffee break.

Will Murrayfield prove a home away from home for Hearts?

Transformed: The pitch dimensions at Murrayfield have been altered at Hearts request.
Transformed: The pitch dimensions at Murrayfield have been altered at Hearts request. SNS

With Tynecastle renovation work ongoing, Hearts are to play their first three home fixtures of the campaign at Scotland's home of rugby. The first visitors to Murrayfield are Aberdeen on Saturday, and the Dons are expected to bring around 7,000 fans to the 67,000-capacity venue.

The Jam Tarts knocked back a request from Derek McInnes' side to train on the pitch, having spent the week getting themselves acquainted with the surface after Craig Levein had the pitch dimensions altered to resemble Tynecastle.

Tottenham Hotspur's struggles at Wembley point to the difficulty an unfamiliar venue can cause for the home side, and Levein is trying to strain every sinew of advantage he can.

The move, coupled with the sacking of head coach Ian Cathro and a month-long search for a permanent successor, ensures it has been a stressful start to the season for the Hearts players. Levein, though, is renowned for creating a siege mentality amongst his squad and is looking to engender a similar mindset this time around as he attempts to steady the ship.

He said: "That (a siege mentality) helps. I do protect my players - but only when they are doing well.

"For me, it's simple: You have to work your tail off and do everything you can to win the match and if you don't win it and we have done everything honestly then I am a fully supportive."

https://stv.tv/sport/football/1397254-levein-looking-to-recreate-a-siege-mentality-at-hearts/ | default

Is it time for Partick to turn passes into points?

Pointless: The Jags came up short last time out against Aberdeen despite scoring three times.
Pointless: The Jags came up short last time out against Aberdeen despite scoring three times. SNS

Perennial slow starters Partick Thistle currently sit pointless at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership table.

The Jags were unbeaten in all three of their contests with Ross County last campaign, however, and will see their visit to Dingwall as an opportunity to arrest a slide that has resulted in eight consecutive top flight defeats.

Manager Alan Archibald cites a 3-1 win in the Highlands as the turning point of last season, with the result ending a seven game losing streak and lifting Thistle off bottom spot. A remarkable upturn in form from that point resulted in the club's first ever top-half finish in the top flight.

Acclaimed for being pretty on the eye, Thistle ran league leaders Aberdeen close last time out. But for all their fluid movement, they once again came unstuck at the back and will have to prove more resolute or face being put to the sword by a vibrant Staggies attack.

Will Neil McCann exploit his old club's frailties?

Neil McCann: The Dundee boss returns to one of his former clubs when his side visit Ibrox on Saturday.
Neil McCann: The Dundee boss returns to one of his former clubs when his side visit Ibrox on Saturday. SNS

Neil McCann returns to his old stomping ground at Ibrox for the first time as a manager on Saturday, and the Dundee boss is confident his side can exploit gaps in the Rangers rearguard caused by Pedro Caixinha's expansive style.

While Dundee have began the season poorly, they arrive in Govan with a full-strength squad. Souffien Moussa, Faissal El Bakhtaoui and Randy Wolters have used the break to recover from injury, while new signings Jon Aurtenetxe and AJ Leitch-Smith further bolster McCann's side.

Rangers have toiled on their home patch of late, with Caixinha enjoying a better record on the road since taking charge. Should the Light Blues have aspirations of challenging this season, consistency in the form of routine wins at Ibrox will be key.

Can Peter Hartley plug the hole in Motherwell's defence?

While Deadline Day came and went with talismanic forward Louis Moult still in a Motherwell jersey, another notable name did depart Fir Park as Ben Haneghan joined English Championship side Sheffield United.

Manager Stephen Robinson was quick to try and plug the hole in his back four, with centre-half Peter Hartley joining on loan from Blackpool in the immediate aftermath.

Haneghan's will be big shoes to fill, but 29-year-old Hartley is determined to make his mark in Scotland after finding himself warming the bench at Blackpool.

He said: "I can't sit in stands and watch games of football when the clock is ticking," Hartley said.

"My goal is to impress and be in the manager's plans here."

Robinson's Deadline Day recruitment did not stop in defence as former Manchester United youth midfielder Liam Grimshaw signed from Preston North End, leaving the manager delighted with the strength in depth he now possesses.

Falkirk in danger of losing touch in promotion race

Falkirk's Challenge Cup victory over Sligo Rovers ended a month-long spell without a win, and Peter Houston will be hoping it provides a platform on which to kickstart their league campaign.

The Bairns were widely tipped as promotion contenders once again after making the play-offs three years in a row. But they have started this campaign poorly, taking just one point from 12 and sit second bottom in the Championship.

On Saturday they face bottom side Brechin City, who also have just one point, knowing full well that three points are a must should they have aspirations of featuring in the promotion mix this season.

The strong starts made by Dunfermline, Queen of the South, St Mirren and Dundee United hint at a highly competitive race for the title, and the Bairns cannot afford to give their rivals too much of a head start.

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