Hearts defender Jimmy Dunne feels he is set to experience as big an occasion as you would get in any league around the world as the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders prepare to face Rangers at Ibrox.
Hearts are unbeaten in all 13 games this season while Rangers have won eight and drawn one of their nine home matches in Europe and domestic football, their latest Ibrox win coming against Rapid Vienna on Thursday.
Dunne admits he did not foresee how intense Scottish football would be when he made his loan move from Burnley in August.
The 20-year-old Irishman said: “Some people maybe underestimate the standard. It’s hard to compare to leagues in England but what I would say is that the occasion of the game is bigger than you’d get anywhere.
“This weekend is going to be an amazing atmosphere and we are looking forward to that so much. The cup semi-final (against Celtic) is going to be a crazy atmosphere, and you don’t get that in most leagues in the world.
“And for someone developing at my age, that is an unbelievable experience, and exactly what I need. In terms of that, it’s as big as you’d get anywhere.
“This is a massive game, we are top and they are doing really well. It will be entertaining and interesting because people want to know where exactly where we are in the league: are we just on top because of the teams we’ve beaten or can we beat Rangers?
“I certainly didn’t dream of it going this well at the start and I maybe underestimated how big a club this was and how huge an opportunity I had to get somewhere with this club.
“It’s got a huge fan base, we are getting huge support and that really helps. We are getting big turnouts and 4,500-5,000 travelling to away games. I never imagined we would have that support. It makes a huge difference.”
Rangers have scored 16 goals in their past four Ibrox games but Dunne has faith in the approach that has taken Hearts top.
“We just have to keep doing what we have done in previous games, which is doing the basics really well and rattling teams early,” he said. “I don’t think we are going to change too much because of the occasion. We are just going to enjoy it and do what we have been doing all the time.”
Hearts boss Craig Levein is confident his team can take something from Ibrox.
“We’ve faced a number of tests, some of when we’re strong favourites and some when we’ve not been,” he said.
“The pleasing thing for me is that we have managed to deal with everything that’s been presented to us. I’m hopeful it is the same again on Sunday, taking into account, of course, that Rangers’ home form is the best in the league. That includes the European matches and they had another fantastic European result again in midweek.
“We’re in good form and I feel we are ready and capable of going through to Glasgow and getting points.
“I think it’ll be a great game, I really do, and I’m hopeful we can do enough to come out on top.”