Hearts striker Osman Sow has started running again after two months out with a torn thigh muscle but is unlikely to return in time to face Hibs on January 3.
The Swede is expected to be fit to face Rangers at Ibrox two weeks later, however.
Head coach Robbie Neilson explained today that he is proceeding cautiously with Sow, pictured, who is now jogging and hoping to begin full training soon. Hearts want the forward available for vital matches during the title run-in and will not rush him back for the Edinburgh derby.
“Hopefully Osman will be playing again soon,” said Neilson. “He has started running but I don’t want to push him too much. He’s desperate to get back but we’re holding him back a little bit. The worry is that he might injure himself again. I’d be surprised if he’s back for the Hibs game but I’d like to think definitely for the Rangers game.”
Neilson added that Sow’s lack of matches during the last two years meant injuries were always likely. Hearts expected as much when they signed him in July. “We knew all along when we signed Osman at the start of the season that he hadn’t played a lot of games in the last couple of years,” continued Neilson.
“We were under no illusions about him coming here and playing 40 games. It’s our job to try and manage him and get him playing 20 or 25 games. Then next season he’ll maybe play 30 games, then the following season maybe 40 games.
“The reason we get players of his ability is that there’s an issue there. His issue was that he hadn’t played a lot of games because he was breaking down. We understand that and we need to manage him through it. We’re doing that as best we can.”
Turkish defender Alim Ozturk was left out of the team for last night’s 2-0 win at Cowdenbeath, however Neilson said he will be fit for Saturday’s trip to Livingston. “Ozturk will be fine. He wanted to play last night but he’s got a wee issue with his hamstring and, with three games in a week this week, there are more important games coming up that we’ll need him for.”
Meanwhile, Livingston are expecting a near-capacity crowd at the Energy Assets Arena at the weekend and are advising all fans to arrive early. Car parking will be busy with many shoppers visiting the town after Christmas. The stadium’s refurbished Almondvale Suite will be open from 12pm for Hearts supporters only.