Hearts star Hughes fails to make date with Celtic

Aaron Hughes at Oriam
Aaron Hughes at Oriam
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Krystian Nowak and Tasos Avlonitis will continue in central defence for Hearts against Celtic tomorrow with Aaron Hughes still injured. Head coach Ian Cathro revealed today that Hughes’ calf problem is more complicated than first thought.

The Northern Irishman missed the last four games prior to the international break and didn’t feature in his country’s World Cup qualifier against Norway. He will continue to sit out against Celtic and Cathro admitted he may not be ready for another week.

“The only concern is the ongoing situation with Aaron. We’re still managing that. It’s a bit more complicated than what we originally imagined so we’ll be without Aaron for probably the next week,” he said.

Polish defender Nowak and Greek Avlonitis will therefore be entrusted with the task of trying to stop Brendan Rodgers’ unbeaten Celtic.

“They’re a very consistent team with strong players and so on,” said Cathro. “The way they play is clear, they have a process, it’s machine-like at times. That’s why they’ve done what they’ve done. What we do, as in every week, is to look into the game. Our attitude is the same. How do we win? We want to win so we’ll do our work. We’ve made the analysis and we’ll look at the things we feel can give us opportunities. Our job is to try and execute that tomorrow.

“It’s one of those games where we know there will be an atmosphere inside that stadium come half past 12 tomorrow. We want to be in control of that, leading it and driving it. It could be a big day for us.”

Cathro is determined Hearts can win with the correct mentality. “Parts of what we do won’t change but we also want to play a bit. That’s one of the differences. Our attitude is to go and win the game. It’s really clear for us,” he stated.

“We’ve come from the defeat at Aberdeen and we’ve had the week off during the international break. It’s a later game in the schedule so we have more time.

“We’re preparing for the first of three really important games in the week in front of us. Our attitude is to approach the game wanting to win the game.

“Maybe that’s the first difference. I’m not sure how many teams approach Celtic with that attitude. They maybe say it, but we mean it. They’ll have a team to play against tomorrow.”

Celtic have beaten Hearts in both previous meetings this season, most recently via a 4-0 scoreline at Parkhead at the end of January. Cathro believes his team have improved since then after signing nine new players that month.

“Our group is definitely in a stronger position,” he said. “Everybody has had more time, more training sessions, more games, more positives and more negatives that you live through when you’re with each other on a day-to-day basis.

“The group is in a stronger position and we feel further forward taking on Celtic in relation to last time. We feel closer to being at the level we want to be at to go and compete.”

Meanwhile, Hearts have allowed striker Dylan Bikey to rejoin Stirling Albion on loan until the end of the season. The 22-year-old Frenchman played only twice after rejecting an offer from Hibs to sign as an amateur at Tynecastle in January.

He scored nine times in nine games for Stirling during December and January and has now gone back to the League Two club to play more regularly.

Bikey’s Hearts contract expires at the end of the season, at which time the club hierarchy will decide whether to offer him a new deal.