Hearts midfielder Arnaud Djoum will miss the matches against Celtic, Hibs and Aberdeen after being ruled out until after the January winter break.
The Cameroon international was forced off during Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over Dundee, and Hearts have since confirmed that Djoum had damaged his Achilles tendon.
Craig Levein said of the injury: “Arnaud got a kick on his Achilles on Tuesday and will miss out until the winter break by the looks of things. There is a bit of damage to the Achilles tendon.”
Levein confirmed that while Aaron Hughes and Jamie Walker had made progress in their own fitness battles, the pair would not be ready for Sunday, meaning the Hearts boss will be forced to call on his youngsters once again.
But despite widespread praise for the crop of teenagers, Levein has admitted that the youngsters are ‘not ready’, conceding that he’s reluctant to play them despite further injuries depleting the Hearts’ squad.
Sixteen-year-old Anthony McDonald won plaudits for his performance against Dundee, having a hand in both goals, while fellow 16-year-old Harry Cochrane and 19-year-old Lewis Moore also featured.
But Levein has urged caution ahead of the visit of Celtic on Sunday.
“It’s a bit of a risk right now; they’re not ready and I think you can see that,” Levein said. “The only one who has looked physically ready is Euan Henderson, but he’s a different build and is a lot stronger from his rugby background.”
Conceding that the other youngsters were all ‘fairly slight’, the Hearts boss added: “Looking at them, you would think a strong wind would blow them over.”
However, he hailed the teenagers for their contribution after being pitched in due to the injuries sustained by first choice players.
“They have done better than I would have expected and that’s a great credit. The mentality is good and strong though and football-wise they are capable of competing. We have had a spell of injuries to our better players for what seems like months now, so I haven’t had a lot of choice [but to play them].
“The pleasing thing for me is that they have all come in at different points and contributed. That augurs well, but they are still two or three years away from what I would consider to be first-team players here.
“I’d rather have Arnaud Djoum and Jamie Walker available, but if they’re not then I’ve not got a lot of options.
“Whether they’re ready to play against Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong, time will tell, but they were both young once and everyone has to start somewhere.”