Robbie Neilson admits he faces a dilemma over whether to play two strikers against Rangers as Hearts look to inflict further damage on the Glasgow club’s title challenge.
The Tynecastle head coach is considering his options ahead of Friday night’s game at Ibrox, which could see Hearts stretch their lead atop the Scottish Championship to 16 points.
New loan signing Genero Zeefuik is expected to play after his debut double against Dumbarton last weekend. Neilson must now decide if he should deploy James Keatings alongside the Dutchman, with Osman Sow and Dale Carrick also available after injury.
Sow and Carrick are back in full training but are likely only to make the bench at best, likewise teenager Gary Oliver.
Neilson felt having two strikers on the pitch helped create chances in the 5-1 win against Dumbarton after Keatings was forced to play up front alone recently because of injuries.
“It makes a huge difference to us, having two up front,” Neilson told the Evening News.
“When we took Genero off against Dumbarton, we went back to one up top and we couldn’t quite get back in again. We managed to start creating more chances when we reverted back to two. It’s definitely the way we want to play but there are certain games where we have to change it.
“Osman and Carrick are back training so the options are there. I’ll need to have a look at it for Friday and make a decision about what we want to do. It depends how we see the game developing.”
Regardless of Friday night’s result, Neilson is adamant the league will not be decided. He is keen to exercise caution despite the sizeable points advantage built up by Hearts and the fact they have yet to lose a league match this season.
“There are 16 games to go so we still have 48 points to play for,” he said. “No matter how it goes on Friday night, there are still a lot of points to be won. We can’t become complacent. The boys are training and they will be focused for Rangers. They are winners, they want to be winners and they’re showing that at the moment. They just need to continue doing it.
“It’s a huge game on Friday, everyone knows that. It’s a big game to be involved in given the way the league has panned out so far, but it’s not going to define the season. It’s not going to be a case of if we win this, it’s over, or if we don’t win then we’re going to lose the league. The three points we got on Saturday are the exact same points we’ll get if we win on Friday night. We need to be ready to go.”
Hearts have no plans to sign any more players during the January transfer window after securing Zeefuik on a six-month loan from FC Groningen last week.
“No, that’s it,” confirmed Neilson. “Unless somebody moves out, which I don’t foresee, then there’s a possibility of bringing somebody else in. At the moment, I’m not looking to bring anybody in.”