Hibs will be without two key players in goalkeeper Ofir Marciano and midfielder John McGinn for their crunch Championship clash with Falkirk, the Evening News can reveal today.
McGinn has been named in Gordon Strachan’s Scotland squad for a friendly against Canada at Easter Road a week on Wednesday and the World Cup qualifying match with Slovenia at Hampden the following Sunday, the day after table-topping Hibs face second placed Falkirk on March 25.
But, the Evening News has learned, Marciano has been drafted into Israel’s squad for their vital World Cup qualifying match away to Spain, a game which will take place the night before the visit of the Bairns.
Clubs can ask for league matches to be rescheduled if they have players away on international duty but only if three or more are involved so, with only Marciano and McGinn missing, Hibs boss Neil Lennon will be unable to seek postponement of a game which could prove crucial to his team’s title hopes.
Marciano, who has been capped ten times by Israel, was last called up by his country in November for a World Cup qualifying match with Albania, a game they ultimately won 3-0, but the Hibs goalkeeper suffered a knee injury in training prior to the game and eventually required surgery.
He missed six matches before returning for the Scottish Cup clash with Bonnyrigg Rose, but sustained a rib injury less than 20 minutes into the tie, resulting in another fortnight on the sidlelines,
However, his form – the 1-0 win over Dundee United was his tenth clean sheet of the season – hasn’t been ignored by Israel coach Elisha Levy. The 27-year-old will jet home to join his international team-mates immediately after Saturday’s match with Dumbarton before they fly to face Spain in Gijon’s El Molinon stadium a week on Friday.
Spain sit joint top of Group G on ten points after four games with Israel just a point behind, making it a match crucial to Israel’s hopes of making the finals in Russia next year.
Lennon will also find his squad – already without the injured Paul Hanlon, Liam Fontaine and Chris Humphrey – stretched for the visit of Dumbarton, with Jason Cummings suspended after being sent off against Dundee United, as is Fraser Fyvie, who has accumulated six yellow cards this season.