Hibs return to Easter Road on Saturday knowing that anything less than three points simply will not do.

Dundee are the visitors to Leith, and will arriving a good five points ahead of Nick Montgomery's side in the race for the top six. That advantage extending to eight is almost unthinkable for a support desperate to for an injection of life into a meandering Premiership campaign.

Last weekend's 2-2 draw at Aberdeen provided frustration yet also some cause for optimism. But promise does not equal points on the board, and that has to be the focus above all else against the Dark Blues.

Montgomery and his coaching staff are still feeling out the best combinations across the pitch after a productive January transfer window and a change of shape. Here are three areas they could look at ahead of the weekend.

A change at the back?

Hibs are still toiling to get it right at the back, and may well have departed Pittodrie with three points had it not been for some rather basic defensive errors. Hibs have now conceded seven goals in their last three Premiership outings, and it's a trend that will likely to continue to negate improvements in attack, unless it can be reversed. But what is the solution? It's difficult to say with any certainty.

The Will Fish-Nectar Triantis partnership is still a relatively new one, and there's a tendency in football to afford defensive units less time to gel than their attacking counterparts following a change in personnel. That, though, is understandable in that mistakes at the back are more immediately consequential than errors in the final third, as was the case on Saturday. Of the two centre-backs, Triantis had a shakier 90 minutes defensively, and looked constantly troubled by the presence of Bojan Miovski. It was the Aussie who played the striker onside for Aberdeen's first goal, while both he and Fish found themselves in an unedifying twist for the second. StatsBomb data backs up the perception that both endured a difficult afternoon, registering a negative On-Ball Value (OBV) for each.

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With Fish having turned 21 on Saturday, and Triantis still only 20, it is an inexperienced pairing in a setup which demands a lot from centre-backs. If ship-steadying is the requirement, there is an obvious temptation to restore Paul Hanlon to the side this weekend. Montgomery, though, would know the optics that would come with dropping his first-choice defensive signing for a must-win game, and he will have faith that Triantis will adjust to the Scottish game before long. His reluctance to play Hanlon consistently also chimes with those aforementioned demands on centre-backs to be mobile and athletic, which obviously favours the younger option in Triantis, or, as it was for much of the season, Rocky Bushiri. But with the Belgian-born centre-back without competitive action for the best part of six weeks, throwing him or Hanlon into such a big game could have a disastrous effect. There is a chance it could work, but the element of risk might be too much.

Where Triantis has shown promise is on the ball. He has a good range of passing and can carry it forward when required. There have been calls for a defensive reshuffle on Saturday, but I would not be overly surprised if it doesn't happen. 

Where to fit Emiliano?

The switch to a 4-3-3, on the face of it, does not have an obvious place for natural number 10 Emiliano Marcondes and, along with a fitness issue, has seen him consigned to the substitute's bench in recent matches. His impact at Pittodrie was so clear, however, and Hibs always look like a better team when he's on the pitch. 

Montgomery's switch to a midfield trio will have been, in part, an attempt to assert more control over matches. The defeats to Rangers and St Mirren of late were indisputable evidence, despite previous insistence to the contrary, that Hibs were far too easy to play against, and change was needed.

Emiliano has yet to start since the change in formation and introducing him could require further tweaks. The on-loan Bournemouth ace has experience as the eight in a midfield three but has stated his preference is to play as a ten, and he is clearly a player who likes to have that freedom to roam. After replacing Dylan Levitt on Saturday, Emiliano popped up everywhere - high, low, even drifting wide at times. It gave Hibs an extra attacking dimension against an opponent who had started to drop off to protect their lead, but would possibly require tweaks elsewhere to allow him that freedom in a different game context.

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If Emiliano were to start, it feels likely to come at Levitt's expense. The Dane came on for Nathan Moriah-Welsh at the weekend, but the latter has been key to making the midfield three function, and his intensity could help create the necessary freedom for Emiliano to go and create. On paper, a 4-3-3 may not include an out-and-out ten, but Montgomery has always permitted fluidity, and it's worth remembering that shape in-possession and shape out-of-possession can often be very different things in the modern game.

In a fixture where Hibs are likely to have most of the play and territory, it feels like the right time to reintroduce Emiliano to the starting XI - and a defensive 4-3-3; with two deeper-lying midfielders in Moriah-Welsh and Joe Newell, could offer Marcondes that elusive ten role without deviating too much from his new set-up.

Forward options

Hibs' depth in attacking areas is unrecognisable to the threadbare weeks which helped turn December and January into an almighty slog, but it comes with the challenge of teasing out the best combinations from a wealth of options. The return of Martin Boyle from the Asian Cup immediately improved Hibs, and his link-up with Lewis Miller on the right flank at Pittodrie suggested a partnership beginning to blossom. As of now, Boyle is a certain starter in the front three, and by far the best option on the right.

The remaining two positions, though, are not set in stone. Myziane Maolida has done enough since his arrival to stake a strong claim to continue starting, but it's not quite clear whether his best position is through the middle or down the left. Myziane made a notable difference in replacing Dylan Vente against Celtic earlier this month, their defenders seriously troubled by his willingness to make runs in behind.  He can also come short - arguably he prefers to - and is strong in carrying the ball up the pitch on the counter.

And while he has scored two goals in five appearances, there are signs his game is not quite that of a 'natural' number nine. We highlighted in our analysis of the Aberdeen game earlier this week that Hibs worked a number of promising positions but failed to capitalise. There were two particular instances where Miller and Moriah-Welsh fired dangerous low deliveries across the Aberdeen six-yard box, yet there was no one taking a gamble on being in those areas. Myziane demonstrated a preference to hang back with his positioning, instead of attacking the spaces a poacher would know they are likely to get goals in.

Among the primary reasons for Hibs fans' clamour for a change of shape was to allow Vente to play higher up. The Dutchman arrived at Easter Road with a reputation as a penalty box striker, and his initial good form hinted at a clinical finisher, embarking on a remarkable run of scoring five goals from five shots. But his season has stalled since, often asked to play a deeper role as Montgomery struggled for personnel, and now he hasn't been afforded a single minute in Hibs' last two matches. Adam Le Fondre was preferred against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and at Aberdeen with the team going in search of a winner, which may just have left Vente questioning where he has ended up in the pecking order.

With Élie Youan looking in need of a rest, is there merit in moving Myziane to the left and giving Vente a chance as the central striker? The revamped midfield means the defensive requirements that dragged him deep so often are no longer required, and that, in theory, should allow him to play his natural game. Vente has shown that if you create chances for him, he can finish, and the team now seems far more optimised to make that happen. Would it actually pan out that way in reality? Who knows. But Vente could well feel he deserves a chance considering how selfless he was required to be earlier in the campaign, and with Boyle back and seemingly firing on all cylinders, the former Roda JC frontman may finally be provided with the service he once craved.