Hearts boss faces a midfield jigsaw puzzle for Perth trip

Hearts manager Craig Levein
Hearts manager Craig Levein
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Mounting injury problems could force Hearts manager Craig Levein to cobble together a makeshift midfield for Saturday’s match against St Johnstone.

With Arnaud Djoum already out and Jamie Walker doubtful, the Tynecastle manager is sweating over the fitness of Prince Buaben and Ross Callachan.

A groin strain forced Buaben off 23 minutes from the end of Sunday’s 4-0 win over Celtic, whilst Callachan was substituted due to a thigh complaint with five minutes left. Both players are trying to shrug off the injuries for the trip to Perth.

Should they fail to make it, Levein would be left with a threadbare midfield with Don Cowie as the only experienced figure. Frenchman Malaury Martin is not expected back until after the New Year so 16-year-olds Harry Cochrane and Anthony McDonald could again be asked to step in.

“Prince has a groin strain and Callachan has a thigh strain. Those two would be a big worry for me,” Levein told the Evening News. “We don’t exactly have loads of options in midfield just now, so I don’t know what we’re going to do for the weekend. We’ll need to have a look at that. Having Arnaud and Jamie possibly out doesn’t help, of course.”

Centre-back John Souttar will return to the squad after serving a one-game suspension last weekend. Levein is unsure whether to risk anyone against St Johnstone given Hearts also play Hibs and Aberdeen in an eight-day spell over Christmas.

“Jamie is a ‘maybe’ for Saturday,” he explained, with the winger suffering from a tight hamstring. “I’ve got this dilemma because we have Hibs on Wednesday. I’m trying to look at the next three games and see what the options are.

“Every time somebody gets injured, it reduces the possibilities we have and the combinations we can put together. I’m just hoping Prince and Ross are okay.

“Football is more about rotation now than it’s ever been. We probably would have been making some changes anyway because we have some important games coming up in a short space of time.

“However, there’s a difference between rotating because you choose to, and being forced into decisions based on injuries. That’s the difficulty for us. There’s no point in worrying too much about it at the moment. We will just have to wait and see how things progress.”