Motherwell v Hearts preview: Naismith fitness, Pereira to start, defensive options

Steven Naismith tussles with James Scott in a meeting between the two sides at Fir Park last seasonSteven Naismith tussles with James Scott in a meeting between the two sides at Fir Park last season
Steven Naismith tussles with James Scott in a meeting between the two sides at Fir Park last season
Motherwell host Hearts in a repeat of last year's Betfred Cup quarter-final. The Jambos triumphed in that game, but were knocked out by Celtic in the semis.

'Well boss Stephen Robinson is hoping to avoid a repeat result tonight, although he will be without the suspended Jake Carroll and injured duo Christy Manzinga and Casper Sloth for the tie.

Hearts team news

Steven Naismith is unlikely to get over a small hamstring complaint in time for tonight’s match at Fir Park.However, the Scotland internationalist should be back for next weekend’s match against Celtic.New goalkeeper Joel Pereira will make his debut after signing on loan from Manchester United, with Zdenek Zlamal dropping to the bench.Fellow new arrival Glenn Whelan is also pushing for a start in midfield alongside Loic Damour.Aaron Hickey returns from suspension and is likely to displace Aidy White at left-back, but John Souttar is still sidelined by an ankle injury. Long-term injury victim Ben Garuccio is continuing his rehabilitation.

Possible teams

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Motherwell: Gillespie; Grimshaw, Gallagher, Dunne, Tait; Donnelly, Polworth; Seedorf, Campbell. Hylton; Long. Subs (from): Carson, Hartley, Ilic, Livingstone, Maguire, Cole, Scott.

Hearts: Pereira; M Smith, Halkett, Berra, Hickey; Whelan, Damour; Walker, Clare, Mulraney; Washington. Subs (from): Zlamal, White, Dikamona, Bozanic, Irving, Keena, Henderson, Ikpeazu.

Key battle

Liam Donnelly appears to be the man to stop - the prolific defender-turned-midfielder will come up against Loic Damour or Glenn Whelan, who will be tasked with curbing his influence. Lowdown on opponents

Motherwell won all of their matches in their Betfred Cup group and were free-scoring in the process. Their goals have come from an unlikely source in defender-turned midfieder Liam Donnelly, who has bagged five this term, including a double against Celtic in the league last weekend.

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Motherwell ended up losing that match 5-2 to Neil Lennon’s men, but the Steelmen showed enough in that match that they will pose Hearts a stern examination this evening.Manager Stephen Robinson has had to reconfigure his team, with striker Curtis Main joining Aberdeen and midfielder David Turnbull – who so nearly joined Celtic in the summer – recovering from a serious knee injury.Declan Gallagher has been a success at Fir Park since signing in the summer from Livingston and Robinson has bolstered his attacking options with Devante Cole – son of Andrew, the former Man Utd player – Christian Ilic and Sherwin Seedorf, nephew of Dutch internationalist Clarence.


Bobby Madden is the man in the middle for tonight's tie.