Robbie Neilson's doubt over Craig Halkett as Hearts manager makes statement on Rangers game

Robbie Neilson will instruct Hearts to prioritise Rangers and not Fiorentina ahead of Saturday’s cinch Premiership meeting at Tynecastle Park.

The Edinburgh club are out to win the lunchtime kick-off in front of the Sky Sports cameras before a high-profile midweek Europa Conference League tie. The Italians are due in Gorgie on Thursday evening but manager Neilson stressed Hearts are concerned only with Rangers for now.

They beat RFS in Europe and Motherwell at Fir Park before the international break and want to retain that momentum. “It is Tynecastle so we expect to win the game and that is what we’re going to try to do. With the backing and the way the players are playing, we will go out there with confidence,” said Neilson.

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“We know we are playing against a very good team who were UEFA cup finalists four months ago. They are a good team and they strengthened again in the summer so we have to be at it, but we have shown that we can do that.”

Hearts are facing an important six days but also a hectic six weeks as they cram 12 league and European games in before the World Cup break. “If we start talking about what we’re going to do on Thursday night or the following week or the week after that, then you start to lose focus,” said Neilson

“We are playing Rangers at home in front of a full house. We need to put our strongest team out and fully focus. Hopefully we get a result and then we move on to Thursday. It’s not about the other games that are coming up, it’s about this game on Saturday.

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“When you play these big games, the more you do it, the more you learn how to cope with them. There are guys here who have played a number of big games in their career so, while Saturday is a massive game for us, it is one that the players will be ready for.”

Neilson admitted doubt over Hearts defender Craig Halkett’s fitness after injury. “Craig trained a wee bit today [Thursday]. He will do the full session on Friday. He will be touch-and-go for the weekend, probably not [available] to be honest with you. The plan is to try and get him ready for Fiorentina.”

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson takes training at Riccarton on Thursday.
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