Craig Halkett out of Fiorentina tie as Hearts admit doubt over defender for Italy trip

Craig Halkett is out of Hearts’ Europa Conference League tie against Fiorentina on Thursday and could also miss next week’s trip to Italy.

Manager Robbie Neilson confirmed that the defender, who managed just 22 minutes of football over the last six weeks due to hamstring and calf injuries, will not be ready for the match at Tynecastle Park.

He is also doubtful for the clubs’ meeting at the Stadio Artemio Franchi a week on Thursday. “Craig Halkett is missing at the moment. Other than that, everyone is available,” admitted Neilson, who is also without longer-term absentees Kye Rowles and Beni Baningime. Robert Snodgrass is ineligible for European matches.

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Asked if Halkett would make the trip to Florence, Neilson replied: “It will be touch and go. I would be surprised if he did.”

After beating RFS in Riga on matchday two, Hearts have greater self-belief as they welcome Fiorentina to Edinburgh. They sit on three points in Group A while their opponents are bottom of the section on one.

“I think it was hugely important getting three points in Latvia,” said Neilson. “It's been a long time since we won a European game, especially away from home. To pick up three points in the section was massive. It gives us a real lift going into this game. We believe we can compete at this level.”

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Neilson stated that this is not necessarily a game his side cannot afford to lose. “It's a massive game for the football club. To have a very famous Serie A team coming to Tynecastle under the lights for European football is huge for us. We know we have to bring our best game and hope Fiorentina don't bring theirs. Then it gives us a chance.

“We are sitting in a good position with three points already and we still have a number of games left. It's a game we are looking forward to. We would like to take three points but we understand it's going to be a very difficult game.”

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson must do without defender Craig Halkett against Fiorentina.

Neilson named the Fiorentina players who must be watched. “[Christian] Kouame, up front has pace, whether he plays or [Arthur] Cabral. They are two top strikers. I really like Sofyan [Amrabat] in the middle. He is a top player.”

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