Hearts vs Dundee United Preview
Ex-Hearts boss Neilson with Levein after Championship success. (Image from Getty Images/Mark Davison)

Hearts welcome Dundee United to Tynecastle on Friday night, as the sides battle it out in the first Betfred Cup match of the new campaign.

It's the first meeting between the two clubs since February 2016, when a struggling United picked up a 2-1 victory over Robbie Neilson's Hearts.

The Jambos welcome Neilson back to Tynecastle, where the 39-year-old spent over twelve years as a player and manager. Familiar faces Osman SowLiam Smith and Adam King also return to Gorgie.

Team news

Former Hearts striker Sow is unlikely to feature against his old side due to a calf problem, and Peter Pawlett may miss out for the Scottish Championship club having not taken part in a single pre-season fixture. New signing Lawrence Shankland is expected to make his Dundee United debut.

The hosts are still without Ben Garuccio, who suffered a long-term injury early last season. Peter Haring and Aidy White will also miss the match, while Jamie Walker and Uche Ikpeazu could feature but aren't expected to play the full 90 minutes. Steven McLean is suspended after his ban in last season's semi-final against Celtic.

In an interview with the Edinburgh Evening News ahead of Friday's match, Hearts boss Craig Levein said: "We should have Conor Washingston available along with Craig Halkett. Uche Ikpeazu is not 100 per cent but he will be available."

"We should have Walker for a period. Euan Henderson and Aidan Keena got some game time on Monday night against Inverness."

Old friends reunited

Neilson will lock horns with his former boss on Friday, but the United manager insists that all his focus will be on the pitch.

Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News earlier this week, Neilson said: "I had a great time at Hearts, I loved it and it’s a great club. There are people there I haven’t seen for a long time, so that will be nice."

"However, it’s a football match and I’m going there as Dundee United manager. I want to go down there and win."

Game of the group

This is without doubt the biggest game in Group A, with the winner of Friday's match likely to top the group.

East Fife, Cowdenbeath and Stenhousemuir don't pose much of a threat to either side, both of whom will be expected to ease past all three lower league opponents.

The match will be televised on BT Sport 1. Kick-off is 7:45pm.