Hearts plan injury returns for Craig Halkett, Lewis Neilson and Kye Rowles as Rangers head to Tynecastle
Fellow centre-back Lewis Neilson is expected to be fit despite withdrawing early from the Scotland Under-21 squad last week. Both players are training at Riccarton this week with a view to being involved on Saturday.
Neilson felt a tight hamstring during Scotland Under-21s’ 3-1 friendly victory over Northern Ireland last week. He was substituted after 29 minutes and left the squad to return to Edinburgh.
He is strongly fancied to be available this weekend, whilst Halkett has an outside chance. Combined hamstring and calf complaints have restricted the 27-year-old to just 22 minutes of action in the last six weeks.
His return would be an enormous boost for Hearts as they prepare for eight matches during October. That includes home fixtures against Rangers and Celtic, a trip to Aberdeen, plus two Europa Conference League ties with Fiorentina and one against RFS.
“Halkett is pushing this week and we will see where he is for the weekend,” Hearts manager Robbie Neilson told the Evening News. “If he doesn’t make it this week then he will definitely make the next game. He had the hamstring, then a calf issue, then he came back and tweaked it again.
“We are trying to make sure that, when we get him back, he is back for good. If we are pushing him for these big games then there is going to be a risk. He has been a key player for us over the last couple of years.
“We want him back as soon as possible but there is that balance over how quickly we bring him back. He did individual training on Monday. I expect him back with the squad probably by the end of the week.
“Lewis will be fine. He had a tight hamstring. He was feeling it after our last game at Motherwell and it flared up a wee bit, but I would expect him to be ready for the weekend.
“It’s great for him to come in and play. He did well for us in the last couple of games and he got his Scotland Under-21 call-up. He is still a young kid but he is maturing quickly. We’ve had Toby Sibbick coming in, Nathaniel Atkinson, Andy Halliday has had to drop into different positions. They have all done well.
“It’s part of having a squad. We spoke at the start of the season about getting players in who can play in a couple of positions. These guys have proven that they can play in different areas of the back four or back five.”
Australian centre-back Kye Rowles is due back from a broken foot before the end of next month. Fitness permitting, he will be in strong contention for a place in the Socceroos World Cup squad in November.
“Rowles will still be another few weeks,” confirmed Neilson. “He is on course to come back a few weeks before the World Cup to give him some game time. He should have a few games under his belt by the time the World Cup comes so I would expect around the middle to end of October for him.”