Hearts and Motherwell each have four players facing a suspension sweat in Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final as they try to avoid a potential semi-final ban.
The Tynecastle side have captain Christophe Berra, centre-back John Souttar, midfielder Joaquim Adao and top goalscorer Kyle Lafferty all one booking away from missing the semi-final should they get there. For Motherwell, striker Nadir Ciftci plus midfielders Carl McHugh, Allan Campbell and Craig Tanner are in the same position.
Berra and Souttar received yellow cards in the fourth round against Hibs, while Adao and Lafferty were cautioned against St Johnstone in the fifth round.
Campbell and Tanner were booked in Motherwell’s fourth round win over Hamilton, and Ciftci and McHugh had their names taken against Dundee in the last round.
Scottish Cup rules state that two bookings before the semi-final stage triggers an automatic one-game ban for the next round of the tournament. Disciplinary records are then wiped once the semis begin.
The Hearts manager Craig Levein is adamant his players should not approach Sunday’s tie at Fir Park any differently and will instruct all four to compete as normal – even if that results in suspensions.
A yellow card for any of the above this weekend would rule them out of the semi-final. Levein said the Hearts contingent are aware of the situation but insisted he will not attempt to subdue their competitive edge.
“I’m not worried about it. For me, all that matters is getting through. If all four of them get a booking and miss out, that’s it, but as long as we’re through,” he told the Evening News.
“We need to be competitive, it’s a big game for us and I’m not worried about who is on a booking or not on a booking. The players already know. I don’t want them to play any differently. We just have to play the game and, if they get booked, they get booked.”
Levein admitted the Motherwell tie is one of his biggest games since returning to front-line management with Hearts last August. It is the first time the Edinburgh club have reached the Scottish Cup’s last eight since they won the trophy in 2012.
“It’s the furthest we’ve been in a cup competition for a few years,” he commented. “We’ve had big games against Hibs, Celtic and Rangers, but the nature of where we are makes this very big. It’s an opportunity to make a semi-final so, up to this point, it’s as big as anything.”