Hearts boss Craig Levein almost settled on starting XI for final as he targets ‘single single’

Craig Levein with the Scottish Cup. He is desperate for it to return to Tynecastle
Craig Levein with the Scottish Cup. He is desperate for it to return to Tynecastle
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Craig Levein has “just about” picked his Hearts team for tomorrow’s Scottish Cup final and is confident Uche Ikpeazu and Arnaud Djoum will both be involved.

Midfielder Peter Haring declared himself fit earlier this week after a groin injury, but Ikpeazu’s hamstring and Djoum’s Achilles are still causing some concern.

Hearts manager Levein says the English striker and Cameroonian midfielder will be able to take part at Hampden Park, either from the start or as substitutes. Opponents Celtic are pursuing a Treble Treble, however Levein is preoccupied with his own club’s agenda. “We’ve got a single single to go for. That’s really important to us,” he smiled.

“People expect Celtic to win because they’re such strong favourites but we have a good enough recent history against Celtic not to feel intimidated in any way. When we play well we can be really good and I’m confident we’ll have just about everybody back and available for the final.

“I also feel relaxed about it. There’s not a lot more we can do, although we’ll put in a little more work today. I think we’ll ready for it. The only question [about the injured players] is how long they’ll be able to play for – and that won’t be because of their injuries because they’re fine.

“For us, it’ll be about whether they start or whether they come off the bench. Olly Lee and Steven Naismith are the only two who are definitely out. The rest are in good shape.”

Hearts spent three days at a training camp in St Andrews earlier this week to prepare for the biggest match of their season. Levein wanted different surroundings and felt the trip served its purpose.

“The proof is in the pudding. We’ll find out at the weekend,” he said. “We went away to St Andrews and worked there for a few days, which felt different. Plus we normally train on a Thursday and we haven’t done that this week.

“I wanted it to change things and make it feel like a different build-up more than anything else.”

The manager dismissed concerns over Hearts’ pre-cup final form and stressed they can deliver a performance in this one-off tie. They lost four and drew one of their last five league games after beating Inverness in the semi-final six weeks ago.

“Most of our games have been against top-six opposition, which are more difficult anyway,” said Levein. “Plus I’ve been messing about with the team. I’ve been trying to get us into a place where we don’t concentrate too much on what’s happened in the last four weeks or so but focus on finding the big performance we need at Hampden.”