Hearts host sixth-placed Partick Thistle at Tynecastle on Saturday in a must-win Premiership fixture if Ian Cathro’s side has any hope of securing fourth and the final European football spot.
After Aberdeen beat Hibs in the Scottish Cup final, fourth spot in the Premiership is guaranteed to be a possible avenue to European football next season for Hearts. Fourth-placed St Johnstone are four points ahead of the Jambos with five games to play, but Hearts have poor form, winning only one of their last five league games. Partick Thistle, on the other hand, were unbeaten in eight before losing 2-0 to Rangers a fortnight ago, and beat Hearts 2-0 the last time the two teams met back in February.
Cathro will be without long-term absentees Callum Paterson (knee) and John Souttar (Achilles), while veteran defender Aaron Hughes is sidelined by a calf injury. Esmael Goncalves, who was sent off for two bookable offences in the previous fixture with the Jags, will start up front, while Prince Buaben and Krystian Nowak will continue their makeshift partnership at centre-back.
The injury situation for Partick boss Alan Archibald has improved in the past two weeks with goalscorer against Hearts last time out, Kris Doolan, and fellow forward Chris Erskine both recovering from knee and hamstring knocks respectively that had kept them on the bench against Rangers a fortnight ago. Captain Abdul Osman is also in contention for a place in the starting XI but Stuart Bannigan, Gary Fraser (both knee), Jason Banton (groin), Ryan Scully (shoulder) and Sean Welsh (foot) are all definitely unavailable for selection.
Probable Hearts XI: Hamilton, Struna, Nowak, Buaben, Smith, Kitchen, Tziolis, Walker, Djoum, Cowie, Goncalves. Subs from: Noring, Avlonitis, Rherras, Oshaniwa, Sowah, Choulay, Martin, Beith, Currie, Johnsen.
Probable Partick Thistle XI: Cerny, Keown, Devine, Lindsay, Dumbuya, Barton, Osman, Booth, Doolan, Edwards, Erskine. Subs from: Ridgers, Christie, Amoo, Welsh, Lawless, Elliott, Azeez, Lamont, McLaughlin, Nesbit, McCarthy.
Referee: Andrew Dallas
Where and when: Tynecastle, tomorrow, 3pm kick-off.