Hearts’ final preparation for their Ladbrokes Premiership opener against champions Celtic will be a training match at Riccarton. Head coach Robbie Neilson admitted the situation is far from ideal after tomorrow’s friendly against Fleetwood Town was cancelled.
Steven Pressley’s resignation saw the English League One club abandon their planned trip to Tynecastle. Hearts officials tried in vain to arrange a friendly at short notice after Fleetwood pulled out.
Instead, the players have little option but to play an 11-v-11 bounce game at their training base on the outskirts of Edinburgh. By the time Hearts host Celtic a week on Sunday, 17 days will have passed since their last official match against Birkirkara in the Europa League qualifiers.
Neilson stressed the disrupted preparations will not affect his squad and that his players will be ready for their first league fixture. Having played four European ties against Infonet and Birkirkara, they have the benefit of some competitive action.
“It’s not ideal, it’s just the way it’s worked out,” he told the Evening News. “Fleetwood obviously have their own issues down there. We’re just going to organise a game between ourselves.
“We tried to get another friendly, but the problem we have is everyone is either playing in the League Cup or they have other games already organised.
“It’s short notice so we’ll just have to play 11 versus 11. It will give the boys 90 minutes each and we’ll get the best out of it that we can.
“It’s going to be a tough one next week but Celtic games take care over themselves. It’s a great game to go into. It’s one we’re looking forward to so I’m sure our bounce game will be competitive because players want to get into the team for the opening game.”
Neilson has watched Celtic in person and had scouts submit reports on their matches so far this season. He is content that everything possible has been done in that area Hearts’ planning.
“We’ve played a few competitive games this season so Celtic will know what we’re like, as we will with them,” he said. “We watched them against Astana, I’ve watched them twice live and we know what to expect.
“When a new manager comes in, like Brendan Rodgers, he’s always got a different way of playing and different systems. We will have as much information on them as we can get.”