Hearts already gearing up for visit of Rangers

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson
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Hearts are already preparing in training for Rangers’ visit to Tynecastle in three weeks time, head coach Robbie Neilson revealed today.

He is considering changing formation but remained coy on his exact plans for the lunchtime kick-off on November 22.

Sessions at Riccarton are already gearing up for the potential top-of-the-table meeting, albeit Hearts face Raith Rovers at home and Falkirk away before then. Neilson will not overlook any other opponent but is keen to take advantage of a two-week break to do extra preparatory work. Hearts have no fixture this weekend due to the Scottish Cup third round and Neilson has been quietly working to try to improve his team’s play throughout the week. He is aware that the Rangers match may ultimately prove pivotal to the destination of the SPFL Championship title.

“We’ve got Rangers coming up in three weeks so we’ll start looking at that. We’ll possibly look to change shape in the next couple of games,” he told the Evening News. “I’ve got a few things I’d really like to work on. We started the season and the focus was really on passing the ball and trying to dominate the game. There are other things I want to work on to add to that because I think we can get better. We’ll try to do that over this wee break we’ve got.”

Extra responsibility is likely to fall on the shoulders of Turkish defender Alim Ozturk this month. Right-back Callum Paterson is suspended for the next two games and centre-back Danny Wilson is struggling with a groin injury. Ozturk scored a sensational 40-yard equaliser in last week’s 1-1 draw with Hibs at Easter Road and is certain to be high in confidence.

“I didn’t know he had that in him,” laughed Neilson.

“He does practise it in training all the time.

“He’s always there smashing balls in from 30 or 40 yards, usually free kicks. It was great for him to step up and smash it home on Sunday.

“I was in the same position as everybody where you thought, ‘oh no, what’s he doing here?’ Then he does something like that.

“It was fantastic. I was hoping he was going to try and slip somebody in.

“There was a possibility of playing Jamie Walker in but Alim took his chance and it came off.

“It was one of those shots that sometimes go over the bar or fly wide, but we got lucky.”