Jack Ross says Hibernian are hugely motivated to beat local rivals Hearts and claim a place in the Scottish Cup final.
Hibs won the trophy in 2016 for the first time in 114 years – and are aiming to reach the final for a 15th time this weekend.
The semi-finals have been delayed from last season due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning there will be no European place for the winners for the first time since 1960.
But Ross says that will not diminish his squad’s determination to claim a place in the final against Celtic or Aberdeen on December 20.
“I have certainly not sensed any less excitement or determination about the players and staff this week,” said Ross.
“So, going from the experience of being involved on a day-to day basis in the lead-up to a semi final, I would say no.
“I can understand why people believe that to be the case.
“But, for us certainly, the opportunity to reach a final and to potentially win a cup, it has not been devalued at all in terms of the timing of the matches and the timing of the final, should we reach it.”
Hibernian captain Paul Hanlon was part of that cup-winning side in 2016 – and he thinks Hearts will provide a tough test, even though they are currently in the Championship while Hibs are third in the top flight.
Hanlon said: “I think it’s going to be a massive test.
“They are a squad that has got good players in it and they have started their season well, so it is going to be a difficult game.
“But on the flip side, we have started the season great, we have got a number of games under our belt now that we have performed well in.
“It’s an Edinburgh derby and that in itself makes it a massive game but, on top of that, being a semi-final of the national cup, it is a huge game.
“It is a big disappointment that there won’t be any fans in the stadium but it is a massive match for both clubs and the city, and we want to come out on top.”