Hearts to protect players and rotate squad as they enter season-defining period

Hearts enter a potentially pivotal period after the winter break as manager Robbie Neilson prepares his team for a congested run of fixtures.

Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 7:00 am
Manager Robbie Neilson believes Hearts are about to enter a key period of the season.
Manager Robbie Neilson believes Hearts are about to enter a key period of the season.

Eight games inside five weeks are, according to the manager, critical to the Edinburgh club’ aspirations of qualifying for European football. Those matches start on January 18 when St Johnstone visit Tynecastle Park.

Then follows a Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at Auchinleck Talbot before further league matches against Celtic, Motherwell, Hibs, Rangers, Dundee and, finally, St Johnstone again in Perth on February 19.

Celtic, Motherwell, Hibs and Rangers are all top-six rivals for Hearts and Neilson explained that consistency over the next few weeks will be vital. His team are currently third in the cinch Premiership table.

“When we come back on the 18th, we have eight games in four and a half weeks. There is a Scottish Cup game in there, plus seven league matches. For me, that will be the defining part of the season,” he told the Evening News.

“If we get a good run in that time we give ourselves a right good chance. It will depend what teams do for these games and how fit you can keep your players. That will be the defining period.

“You just need to make sure you can get everyone in the squad ready. You are going to need them. Very few people will be able to play eight games in such a short space of time.

“You are going to need to rotate the squad and keep it strong, plus you will get injuries as well. That's going to be a really key part of the season for everyone.”

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