Hearts could be missing 3 of their best players for Celtic Park trip
It’s looking as though Hearts could be without 3 of their best players for their trip to Celtic Park next weekend in a game where we could wrap up the Premiership title.
Should Celtic beat Rangers on Sunday, we’ll only need a point against the Jambos on home turf to win back our crown. The game could provide Ange Postecoglou with a poetic end to the season given it was Hearts who beat him in his first match in Scottish football.
Robbie Neilson’s side have gone on to have a fine campaign as they’ve wrapped up 3rd spot and reached the Scottish Cup final. That work has seen Neilson recognised as one of the nominees for the PFA Manager of the Year award.
However, he could be without some big names for his trip to Parkhead next Saturday. One who will definitely be missing is Beni Baningime. He’s been out since March with a cruciate ligament injury and will be missing for the rest of the campaign.
But just as importantly, they could also be without their first-choice centre-back pairing. Craig Halkett and John Souttar both look extremely doubtful for the Parkhead fixture.
Hearts are hoping to have Halkett back for their league clash against Rangers the week after they play Celtic [Daily Record]. As for Souttar, he’s only just back in training with Neilson targeting their game against Motherwell as the fixture he wants him definitely back for. Granted, Hearts are still hoping he could make the Parkhead clash [Scottish Sun].
Hearts could be without their first picks for Celtic Park
Against Dundee United on Sunday, Hearts shipped 2 goals with Alex Cochrane, Toby Sibbick, and Tyler Moore playing at the centre of their defence. However, none of these players would be in their starting XI if they had Halkett and Souttar both fit.
Keeping the ball out has been a problem for them in recent weeks too. They’ve shipped goals in 6 of their last 7 matches. Celtic have also scored in all 4 meetings with the Jambos this season.
It’s fair to say they’ve lacked the midfield bite they had when Beningime featured at Tynecastle and Parkhead earlier in the campaign. Andy Halliday isn’t at the same level, and that’s probably partly the reason why we’ve had a better time of it in the engine room against them in recent meetings.
Of course, Hearts will still be competitive. Even if all 3 are missing, they have a winning mentality at the moment. That was shown in their 3-2 win at Tannadice on Sunday. They’ll be coming to try and spoil the party and we know how much motivation Neilson will take from that particular carrot.
All we can really do is play our own game and hope it leads to more opportunities than normal against a potentially weakened Hearts backline. With a bit of luck, we’re going into the game full of confidence after beating Rangers too.
It’s certainly going to be a fiery contest regardless of the circumstances. For now, however, attention remains on getting the job done this Sunday.