Hibs will be without Martin Boyle, Mark Milligan and Jamie Maclaren for the second Edinburgh derby of the season after the trio were named in the Australian squad for next month’s Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Under FIFA rules, the Easter Road outfit could have asked the SPFL to have the clash with Hearts postponed. However, with the match a 20,000 sell-out and to be shown live on television, Hibs took what they believe was the correct decision not to pursue that course of action.
The three players will be available for Hibs trip to face Rangers at Ibrox on Boxing Day after Socceroos coach Graham Arnold agreed that they can team up with their international team-mates the following day as the prepare to defend their title.
Hibs officials have been in contact with their Aussie counterparts for some time, well aware of the possibility of losing the three for the derby, and made strong representations for them to remain in Edinburgh until after the derby, but with the Asian Cup kicking off on January 5 and the Socceroos in action the following day against Jordan, Arnold was determined to have them together for as long as possible while conscious of his players’ club commitments.
The Australians also play Palestine and Syria in the group stage of the tournament, with the final taking place on February 1, raising the prospect that if the Socceroos progress that Hibs will also be deprived of Boyle, Milligan and Maclaren not only for their first Scottish Cup match against Elgin City, but the Premiership matches against Motherwell, St Mirren and Aberdeen which follow the winter break.
However, it is understood Hibs will then consider the situation on a game-to-game basis and will request call-offs if they feel necessary.