Miguel Pallardo has recovered from a calf injury to take his place in the Hearts squad to face Rangers tomorrow.
The Spaniard could return to the starting line-up, with head coach Robbie Neilson admitting today he planned all along to have Pallardo fit for the final game of the season.
Hearts will receive the SPFL Championship trophy at full-time, although Neilson is desperate for a victory to kick-start celebrations in front of a sellout Tynecastle crowd. He stressed to the Evening News today that he will name his strongest possible team, which could include Pallardo from the start.
Left-back Adam Eckersley will not feature, having undergone surgery on his knee yesterday. The Englishman had a tidy-up operation to ensure he is fit to start pre-season training with a new club. He was told last month his Hearts contract would not be renewed.
“Miguel will be fine. He did some partial training earlier in the week and he’s now back in full training with a view to playing on Saturday,” said Neilson today. “He’s missed the last couple of games, but I always had it in the back of my mind to try and get him back in for the Rangers game. We’ll see how he does over the next 24 hours and take it from there.
“We will be going out desperate to win. We want to win. It’s the last game of the season, it will be the last game for a few players as some guys are moving on in the summer. We need to go out there and try to give it everything. We want to put a performance on, get three points and a good result for the fans.”
Rangers need points if they are to overhaul Hibs in the race for second place, which means one less round of play-off matches. Neilson expects an intense occasion, but also wants to give some of his forwards game time where possible.
“Any game between Rangers and Hearts is always going to be big,” he continued. “Tomorrow we have a full house with Rangers coming to Edinburgh and I’m certain it will be two teams wanting to beat each other. We’ve made a few changes over the last few weeks, but we’ll be putting out the strongest team we can on Saturday to try and get the result.
“Soufian El Hassnaoui has come in and done well. He’s struggled for fitness throughout the season and it’s important we get him game time. He’ll get some time on Saturday. There’s also James Keatings, Dale Carrick is in contention, so I’ve got a lot of options. I don’t see the starting 11 finishing the game.”
As well as Eckersley, Hearts are without goalkeeper Neil Alexander, midfielder Prince Buaben and winger Billy King through injury. Neilson was due to make a decision today on who will start in goal between Jack Hamilton and Scott Gallacher.