Igor Rossi remains doubtful for Hearts’ league encounter with St Johnstone at Tynecastle this weekend due to an ongoing groin problem.
The Brazilian sat out Saturday’s win at Dens Park and is unlikely to train until tomorrow at the earliest, with medical staff at Riccarton concerned about exacerbating the injury.
Head coach Robbie Neilson is prepared to keep faith with the defence which recorded a fourth successive clean sheet against Dundee if Rossi is unavailable. Liam Smith, Alim Ozturk, John Souttar and Jordan McGhee helped goalkeeper Neil Alexander extend the recent run of defensive blackouts with a solid display.
Neilson revealed today that Rossi could have played but the decision was taken not to risk him with some vital matches looming on the horizon for Hearts.
“Rossi didn’t quite make it. He probably could’ve played but, in the last couple of games, he’s lasted seventy or eighty minutes. He probably could’ve pushed himself to face Dundee but I just felt McGhee coming in gives us cover there,” Neilson told the Evening News.
“It’s one of those things that you don’t want to become chronic because Rossi is an important player for us. He didn’t train last week. We were going to train him on Thursday and Friday but I just felt it wasn’t worth it. There are too many games coming up. Igor should be ready for St Johnstone. If he’s not, I think he’ll definitely be ready for the three games in a week after that. I’ll probably give it until Wednesday or Thursday this week before he trains. If he trains and he’s 100 per cent, then we’ll go from there.”
Neilson admitted Saturday’s victory owed much to Smith’s goal-line clearance after Rory Loy’s shot had squirmed past Alexander. In-form Jamie Walker scored the decisive goal to win the points for Hearts, but Smith’s intervention late on was crucial.
“A midfielder or an attacker or a poor defender wouldn’t follow that shot in.
“They’d just see the boy going through and give up and hope the keeper saves them. Liam follows the ball in and saves us the three points. If he’s not there, the ball goes in the net,” said Neilson.
“I was really pleased with the defence because we do a lot of work with them. We work on them and get them just to deal with defending. That’s the basics. John Souttar has come in and been a revelation for us. I thought he’d be one we’d need to develop over the next six or twelve months but he’s come in and taken on board everything we speak about. He wants to defend. That’s it. That’s the most important thing for a defender.”