Hearts duo in fitness fight to face Sons

Soufian El Hassnaoui
Soufian El Hassnaoui
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Recovering Hearts players Soufian El Hassnaoui and Callum Paterson will hone their fitness by playing for the club’s under-20 side against Inverness on Tuesday.

Both are eager to reach the levels required to make a first-team appearance away to Dumbarton next weekend after being sidelined by injury.

For El Hassnaoui, that would mean a competitive debut three months since he arrived at Tynecastle on a three-year contract. The Dutch-Moroccan forward has spent the intervening period recovering from groin surgery which took place in May. He played all of last Tuesday’s under-20 match against Motherwell and is gradually improving his physical condition.

Paterson has been absent for five weeks since a knee operation but has shown impressive powers of recovery. He will not be rushed back into action too quickly but El Hassnaoui is likely to feature at some point against Dumbarton.

“I thought Soufian did well in the under-20 game on Tuesday,” explained Robbie Neilson, the Hearts head coach. “He’s still getting back to full fitness but he’s getting there. He’s been back in full training for just over a week so he’ll get another runout at Inverness on Tuesday. We had a bounce game amongst ourselves in training yesterday that he played in so he’s getting there. He’s over his injury and it’s now about getting himself back to the level he needs to get to.

“He’s technically very good and he’s a clever player. He’s Dutch and he knows the game. He plays good passes and makes good runs so I’m looking forward to getting him fully fit. Although I’ve seen his ability already on the training field, it’s just getting him fit and giving him an opportunity to play in the team. He plays striker or No 10. He can play anywhere up front and he can also play centre midfield as well, but primarily he’s a striker.”

Another striker, Dale Carrick, is due to resume full training next week following a thigh complaint. “Dale is back running so he should resume full training on Tuesday or Wednesday,” continued Neilson. “Callum Paterson has been training and he will also play for the under-20s on Tuesday. Hopefully none of the boys who are away with Scotland Under-21s pick up any knocks so that we’re ready to go next weekend.”