How Hearts will protect players for decisive April games including two derbies against Hibs
Injured Hearts players will be nursed carefully during international fortnight as the club prepares for a mammoth April.
The Premiership visit to Ross County a week on Saturday is a precursor to two Edinburgh derbies in the league and Scottish Cup which will potentially define the Tynecastle side's season. Medical staff will work to have as many key players fit as possible, with several still in the doubtful category.
Midfielders Beni Baningime and Andy Halliday both limped off during Saturday’s 2-0 Premiership win against St Mirren. Baningime’s knee is causing some concern but Halliday’s leg knock is not thought to be overly serious.
Winger Gary Mackay-Steven should be available against Ross County after surgery on a broken hand. Another midfielder, Cammy Devlin, will be touch-and-go as he recovers from a hamstring complaint.
Defenders John Souttar and Michael Smith are unlikely to play as it stands due to ankle and back problems respectively. Manager Robbie Neilson told the Evening News how Hearts must use the international break to their advantage when it comes to injuries.
“The international break has come at a good time, 100 per cent,” he said. “We will wrap them all in cotton wool and try to get them ready for Ross County. If they aren't ready for that, then definitely ready for the derby.
“When Baningime went off on Saturday I was concerned. You are just hoping it isn't as serious as it looked. He walked off so we will need to wait and see over the next couple of days if it settles down. I don't know if he will get scanned or not. It will be up to the medical staff.”
Neilson confirmed Baningime had injured his knee at full-time on Saturday. He spent two months out after hurting the same area earlier this season.
“We will just need to see how Beni is. It's his knee and he had that problem earlier in the season for a while,” explained Neilson. “We will just need to see how he is. It was disappointing but there is no point worrying about it. Toby Sibbick can come in and play centre midfield for us, so we have options.”