Hearts boss Craig Levein outlines plans for Steven MacLean during final league matches
Hearts will use veteran striker Steven MacLean carefully during their final two league games to ensure he stays fresh for the Scottish Cup final.
Manager Craig Levein is determined not to rely solely on the 36-year-old to compensate for injuries in attack.
Top goalscorer Steven Naismith is likely to miss the final, while teenager Aidan Keena is out until next season. Uche Ikpeazu will be rested before the season’s showpiece after tweaking his hamstring against Kilmarnock on Saturday.
That leaves MacLean, Craig Wighton and out-of-favour David Vanecek as Hearts’ attacking options for their remaining league matches away at Aberdeen and Celtic. Levein explained to the Evening News why he does not want to overplay MacLean ahead of the trip to Hampden Park on the 25th of this month.
“You have to remember his age,” said Levein. “For a period earlier in the season, he ended up playing something like 14 games in a row. I don’t care who you are, if you are a lone striker like he was for a lot of that time, it’s a hell of a lot to ask.
“It’s no coincidence that Macca has found his energy levels again since Uche has come back from injury and he’s been rested. We got that from him on Saturday against Kilmarnock and we got it the previous week when he came off the bench against Hibs.
“I’m just worried that I’m going to have to use him for the next couple of matches if Uche is not available. I would like to have kept Macca fresh. I don’t want to get back into the position where I feel he’s going to tire.”