Hearts have lost left-back Kevin McHattie for six weeks with a torn medial ligament, with head coach Robbie Neilson pledging not to risk captain Danny Wilson until he is fully fit either.
McHattie was injured by a tackle from Rangers striker Kenny Miller on Saturday and scans have confirmed a tear in his medial ligament. His absence will see Adam Eckersley return to Hearts’ starting line-up against Celtic in the Scottish Cup on Sunday.
Whether Wilson joins him remains to be seen. The centre-back is still recovering from a hamstring complaint but is expected to take part in full training this week. However, with league success being Hearts’ priority this year, Neilson is reluctant to take any chance with his captain in a cup tie.
On a more positive note, Prince Buaben and Soufian El Hassnaoui are both expected to be fully fit after niggling problems. “Prince will be fine for this weekend. Danny, maybe, but again the league is the main thing for us so I need to make sure he’s 100 per cent,” explained Neilson today.
“He’ll do full training with the team this week and then we’ll see. He’s kind of borderline whether I want to take a risk with him or not. I’ll need to speak to him and see how he feels.
“What I don’t want to do is put him in a week too early and then he breaks down again. I want to make sure he’s bang on because he’ll be a huge player for us this season.”
On McHattie, Neilson added: “It is not good news but it is better than we had feared. We knew it was quite a bad one. No surgery is required, though, with rest being needed. He will be in a brace to begin with and will be missing for six weeks.”
El Hassnaoui has performed as a lone striker in recent weeks due to Osman Sow’s persistent thigh problem. He was substituted after taking a knock during the 2-0 win over Rangers but should be available to face Celtic.
“I think he’ll be okay, it was more of a tactical thing to take him off to give us a few more runs through,” said Neilson.
“Soufian is still getting his fitness levels up. He gave us an hour and then James Keatings came on and gave us a lot more energy with runs in behind. Soufian will be fine and Brad McKay will be fine as well. The only one [definitely out] is McHattie.”