Hearts’ Alim Ozturk on course for November return

Alim Ozturk underwent surgery to cure a hernia problem
Alim Ozturk underwent surgery to cure a hernia problem
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HEARTS captain Alim Ozturk is on course to return from hernia surgery next month, although striker Soufian El Hassnaoui needs another few weeks to improve his fitness.

Ozturk is currently at home in the Netherlands recovering from a hernia operation. He went under the knife again at the start of the month in the hope of curing a problem related to surgery in the same area during the summer. Hearts medical staff expect him back around mid-November, with El Hassnaoui to follow shortly after. The Dutch forward is back playing under-20 games after missing almost four months with a torn posterior cruciate ligament. However, he is under instruction to play several more fixtures at that level before being considered for a first-team recall.

“Ozturk is still over in Holland doing his rehab. I spoke to him earlier in the week and he’s doing well. We’d expect him back round about the time of the international break next month,” explained Robbie Neilson, the Hearts head coach. “El Hassnaoui is still a wee bit away. He played over an hour for the under-20s on Monday night but he still needs four or five under-20 games before he’s ready. He’s been out for a long time. He missed quite a bit of last season, came back and did a bit of pre-season but then he got injured. He hasn’t trained at all so he’s going to be a while yet. We need to get him fitter.”

Neilson is considering whether to start Gavin Reilly when Hearts visit Partick Thistle on league business tomorrow. The striker returned from suspension to appear as a substitute in Wednesday night’s League Cup quarter-final loss to Celtic. Neilson admitted he may make changes to his team after such a demanding fixture and Reilly is in contention. “Juanma and Sow will cause any defenders problems and we played both of them up front against Celtic,” said Neilson.

“We need to have a look at it and see how everyone is after Wednesday. It’s a difficult one with only a two-day turnaround, which we aren’t used to. I’ll take a look at the squad and see how fit they are.

“It’s possible Gav could get involved. I thought he came on and did well on Wednesday, he gave us energy and pace so we’ll take a look at it and make a decision.”