Hearts will be without their injured international pair Aaron Hughes and Arnaud Djoum possibly until the end of the month.
Manager Craig Levein confirmed today that both players are two to three weeks away from returning.
A recurring calf problem prevented Hughes making his 109th Northern Ireland appearance to become the most-capped British international defender in history. He pulled out of the squad last week and must wait for the chance to beat former England captain Bobby Moore’s 108-cap record.
He returned to Edinburgh and was instantly ruled out of Hearts’ forthcoming games against Ross County and St Johnstone. Whether the 37-year-old can face Rangers near the end of the month depends on how quickly he heals.
Djoum injured medial knee ligaments during Hearts’ defeat at Hamilton last month. He has yet to resume full training.
“I think he’ll be another couple of weeks before Aaron is back,” Levein told the Evening News.
“It’s an ongoing calf problem he’s got so unfortunately it’s resurfaced.
“It’s stopped him playing and becoming the most-capped British international defender, so that’s a bit of a missed opportunity and a blow for him.
“He went over to report with the Northern Ireland squad last week but he came back almost immediately.
“There was no chance of him playing so he’ll be out for another two or three weeks.
“Arnaud is the same. It will probably be another two or three weeks before he’s ready as well.”
Hearts captain Christophe Berra and striker Kyle Lafferty have returned without injury from international duty with Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.
Levein was today awaiting news on John Souttar following Scotland Under-21s’ European Championship qualifier in Latvia yesterday. As the manager considers switching from a three-man to a four-man defence for Saturday’s trip to Ross County, Souttar’s availability will be key.
“Christophe is fine, Kyle is okay after his exertions. John Souttar played yesterday so I’m keeping my fingers crossed he comes back unscathed,” continued Levein.
“Having Aaron out might make me lean a bit more towards playing a back four but I haven’t made that decision yet. I’ll wait till everybody is back and assess the situation.”
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