Hearts latest on whether Michael Smith, Aaron Hickey and Clevid Dikamona can face Rangers
Injury issues on the mind of manager Daniel Stendel ahead of Sunday
Hearts manager Daniel Stendel hopes to have Michael Smith, Aaron Hickey and Clevid Dikamona injury-free for Sunday's Premiership match against Rangers.
Smith and Hickey missed the midweek draw at Ross County after suffering knocks against Airdrie in the Scottish Cup. Dikamona played right-back in Dingwall before being forced off with cramp on 61 minutes.
All three defenders are recovering well at Riccarton and should in contention when Rangers visit Tynecastle Park on Sunday.
Stendel explained that he did not expect to have Smith and Hickey available on Wednesday but had always earmarked them for the Rangers game. "This is the goal. We said there was maybe no chance for Wednesday but I hope they can both play on Sunday," he told the Evening News.
The German also explained that Dikamona's problem is nothing serious. He needed treatment twice during the second half against County before being substituted.
"He had cramps. This is a different position for him," said Stendel. "He needed to run more than maybe in the centre-back position. In our situation, with all three right-backs injured, he was one option and we decided on him. I don't think he has a big injury."
The manager wants a more aggressive start from Hearts on Sunday after being disappointed with their opening 45 minutes in midweek. He is eager to propel his club off the bottom of the Premiership by winning games.
"We all know we can play so much better than we did in the first half. This makes me disappointed," he admitted. "We expected that we could win the game and close the gap more but we cannot change the result. We have one point more but the gap between us and Ross County stays the same.
"We need to take the chances in games like that to close the gap to the other teams. I think we were maybe the better teams but we did not have many big chances to score."
Stendel added that new signing Donis Avdijaj will need some time to adapt to Scottish football following his debut against County.
"I think you can see he wants to play well but he needs a little bit of time to know our game and our style. Also, he needs time to know the other players and for them to know what he can do."