Hearts may save John Souttar for Hamilton match

Defender set to miss trip to Celtic Park

Monday, 10th February 2020, 6:00 am
John Souttar has a sore ankle

Hearts will not risk defender John Souttar at Celtic on Wednesday unless he is fully fit – because manager Daniel Stendel believes Hamilton on Saturday is more important.

Souttar missed the weekend Scottish Cup win at Falkirk with an ankle injury. That may be a result of too many games in a short space of time following five months out with a problem on the same ankle.

Medical staff at Riccarton are working intensely with the 23-year-old in the hope he will be available for Wednesday’s Premiership trip to Celtic Park. However, Stendel will not play him if it means risking losing him for Saturday.

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With Hearts bottom of the league and a point behind second-bottom Hamilton, the German knows victory when the clubs meet at Tynecastle Park is imperative. Souttar is a key player for the fight against relegation.

“We are doing everything so he can play,” Stendel told the Evening News. “Wednesday is the goal but, if he cannot play Wednesday and he can play Saturday, then Saturday is the bigger game for us at the moment.

“He was injured for five months with his ankle and he played five games in two weeks. That is a lot of pressure on his ankle. I think it was a reaction after so many games. Normally, I think he can play in the next week.”

Stendel trialled a three-man defence in the 1-0 cup victory at Falkirk but switched to a back four at half-time. He has yet to decide which of the two tactics to use at Parkhead but admitted some Hearts players want more defensive solidity.

“After the last two games, we had some talks with the team,” explained the manager. “They said they would like to be more secure in defence when we press high. It was the idea to do it but we did not have too much time to train on it.

“Saturday was not too important to have so much security in defence. We had too many players behind the ball so at half-time we said we need to change it. We wanted more players in front to play more in possession.

“In the first half, we lost some easy balls and that brought Falkirk back into the game. We wanted to do it differently in the second half and sometimes we did it better.

“Falkirk had some good chances. I am happy about our luck and I am happy we won the game. Our players wanted to win on Saturday. After last Wednesday [3-2 defeat by Kilmarnock], it was a little bit like ‘everything is against us’. We had some lucky situations at Falkirk but we put a lot into the match and we fought.

“Ben Garuccio and Clevid Dikamona played after being out for a long time. Michael Smith came back after injury and played 90 minutes. They showed they can help us in difficult situations. We take the lift from the result and Wednesday is the next game.”