Hearts to utilise squad with three games in eight days over Christmas and New Year

Hearts intend to manage players carefully with three games in eight days and will rotate in certain positions to avoid fatigue.
Hearts players are competing for places ahead of the match with Ayr United.Hearts players are competing for places ahead of the match with Ayr United.
Hearts players are competing for places ahead of the match with Ayr United.

Last week’s Scottish Cup final against Celtic lasted 120 minutes before penalties and the Edinburgh club now enter a congested period of fixtures over Christmas and New Year.

Ayr United visit Tynecastle on Boxing Day before Arbroath arrive on Tuesday, and Hearts then head to Dundee on January 2. Team management will rest some players where possible to keep the team fresh.

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Wingers Elliott Frear and Josh Ginnelly, plus striker Liam Boyce have all managed to train after recent injury issues and will be involved during the festive period.

“Ginnelly will be fine, he did part of the session yesterday and should be alright,” said manager Robbie Neilson. “It was good to get Elliott a bit of game time on Sunday.

“We’ll need to manage the squad with the next three games. Boycie will be fine, his hamstring tightened up during the game but he’ll be fine.

“The players understand right from day one that the objective is to win the league. Yes, we want to win cups but the club has to get back to the top flight. The game on Sunday was very important but the next one is even more important for us.”

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Captain Steven Naismith is available after the Scottish Football Association took no action against him for standing on his Celtic counterpart Scott Brown during a tussle at Hampden Park.

"During the game I saw the tackle and didn’t think there was that much in it. I haven’t watched it on TV so I’m just happy to have him back,” said Neilson.

Defender Stephen Kingsley and striker Craig Wighton, who both had penalties saved during last week’s shootout, will also be involved over the course of Hearts’ next three matches.

“I’m sure the guys will think about it but at the end of the day it’s done and dusted,” said Neilson. “They had the strength to go and take it, which is the more important thing, and again they’ll learn from the experience of being in that situation if it happens again.”

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