Hearts captain Christophe Berra and defender Michael Smith will both miss the final game of the season against Kilmarnock through suspension.
They received their sixth yellow cards of the Premiership campaign at Aberdeen on Friday night, triggering automatic one-match bans.
Berra will now be denied the chance to finish his first season back in Scotland as an ever-present. He has played every minute of every game so far since leaving Ipswich Town to rejoin Hearts. A body-check on Aberdeen’s Gary Mackay-Steven late on in Friday’s 2-0 defeat earned him a sixth caution and an accompanying suspension.
Smith was booked for a foul on Ryan Christie just seconds before the full-time whistle. Scottish Football Association rules state that the bans take effect 14 days after the sixth caution is issued, ruling Berra and Smith out of Hearts’ trip to Rugby Park on Sunday, May 13.
Berra, 33, has been a pivotal figure in the centre of defence this season and will be a big loss to Hearts manager Craig Levein. Smith, 29, has proven himself a useful and versatile signing since arriving from Peterborough United last summer. He has been deployed effectively at right-back, centre-back, left-back and, more recently, in midfield.
Although Hearts have nothing left to play for other than pride, they want to finish strongly in their final three matches. They host Celtic at Tynecastle Park this Sunday, followed by Hibs a week on Wednesday. Then comes the journey to Ayrshire to finish off the league campaign.
Berra is also hopeful of a recall to the Scotland squad for end-of-season friendlies against Peru and Mexico. He was left out of new national coach Alex McLeish named his first squad last month to face Costa Rica and Hungary.