Ian Cathro is not banking on any of Hearts’ absentees from Sunday’s defeat by Celtic to be available for tomorrow night’s Tynecastle showdown with Rangers.
Andraz Struna, Krystian Nowak, Rory Currie and Prince Buaben were all sidelined for the 4-0 defeat in Glasgow. The first three of those have an outside chance of being involved against the Ibrox side, but Buaben is certain to miss out.
“Currie’s dealing with a bit of a bad illness,” head coach Cathro told the Evening News. “I’m sure he’ll be over it by the time the game comes round, but whether he has the energy and has fully recovered in time to be an option, we’ll need to wait and see. With Andraz, we’re going day by day. He’s got a small injury but it’s possible that he could make the game. Krystian is the same. We’re managing him day by day. He could maybe be an option. Prince is still a bit further away. He’s had a bit of a setback with a calf injury so we’ll need to give him a bit more time.”
Although John Souttar is set to add to the absentee list following the Achilles injury he suffered on Sunday, Faycal Rherras could come back into the reckoning after returning from Africa Cup of Nations duty with Morocco. In addition, Greek pair Tasos Avlonitis and Alexandros Tziolis are likely to be in the squad tomorrow. The duo took the total number of January recruits at Hearts to eight, with striker Esmael Goncalves later making it nine.
Cathro recognises that there will inevitably be a bedding-in period when there is such an influx of new faces, but he is confident his new-look side will swiftly find some harmony. “It’s a natural thing that when you do some different things and bring in some different faces, there is always a period of time for them to get comfortable with each other and for relationships to develop,” he said. “I think we should be able to do that reasonably quickly. That’s the responsibility of the staff and of the players. We’ve been looking to bring players in who are ready to play – that’s a big factor, which should result in less time [to settle down] than otherwise.”
One of the first January recruits, Lennard Sowah, has already got his feet under the table and was arguably Hearts’ best player on Sunday. “I’ve settled in quite well,” said the German left-back, who joined from Hamilton Accies. “The players are good and I get along well with them. They have welcomed me in really well and I feel good in the changing room. It’s definitely helped me settle in that I had a period in Scottish football with Hamilton before I came here.
“It may take time for everything to gel for us because we’ve got a lot of new players, but we’re doing everything possible to get along really quickly and develop the relationships and connections that we need between each other to have better results on the pitch.”
Sowah, who is contracted until the end of the season, is ready for the challenge of competing with the returning Rherras for the left-back slot. “I hope I can stay in the team,” he said. “We have many players in the squad and everybody wants to play. I will do my best in training and in matches and, if the gaffer puts me into the team, I will keep doing my best. I am out of contract in the summer, so I will try to give my best on the pitch and hopefully get a new contract.”
Sowah is relishing tomorrow’s showdown with Rangers as Hearts look to revive their faltering Premiership campaign after Sunday’s defeat made it four defeats in six league games. “The result wasn’t what we expected or planned for,” said the defender. “Obviously it’s hard to play against Celtic, but we knew the task we had in front of us. I’m not happy with the performance because we lost 4-0. There are many things we can improve on as a team.
“I am looking forward to the Rangers game. I have seen enough from the squad so far to believe we can get a result against them. We are a good team. We just need to go out and puff our chests out and do our best.”