Celtic could be in for a big advantage this Wednesday night if Hearts’ injury news is as bad as it was at the weekend.
The Jambos lost 1-0 at home to St Johnstone in Daniel Stendel’s first game in charge. The result sent them to joint-bottom of the Premiership, as their run of games without a win stretched to five.
Much of their problems against Saints came back to a lack of a focal point up top. Steven Naismith was out with a hamstring injury whilst Uche Ikpeazu didn’t come on until the second 45.
However, we’re in a position now where Hearts could receive a massive double-blow for the Celtic game.
Ikpeazu is already confirmed to be out for Wednesday. He’s picked up a suspension that will need to be served against the Hoops (Edinburgh Evening News). That would be bad enough for Hearts, but there’s no confirmation that Naismith will return either.
Hearts’ double-blow would be ideal for Celtic
He picked up his hamstring injury in December 4th’s 1-1 draw at home to Livingston. He had to come off and ultimately ended up missing their next two matches against Motherwell and St Johnstone respectively.
According to the Evening Express, Naismith is scheduled to miss another couple of weeks of action. That leaves his chances of playing against us close to non-existent. Stendel, however, has yet to provide an official update on his availability.
So who’s next in line?
Should Naismith miss out, Hearts’ next alternative is Steven MacLean. The former St Johnstone striker was anonymous against his former club at the weekend. This season alone, MacLean has only managed two goals in 15 appearances (Transfermarkt). To put that into perspective, Jeremie Frimpong has scored the same amount.
What a boost that could be for Celtic. After all, Naismith has, in the past, proven to be a real pest when he’s on his game against us. With Hearts already definitely without Ikpeazu, it takes away so many of their main strengths.
Young inexperienced forward Aidan Keena also started for Hearts against Saints on Saturday. It’s difficult to see Stendel going with two up top on Wednesday night, however.
Of course, Celtic will have to be wary of threats from other areas. Hearts have beaten us on two of our last three visits to Tynecastle. On both of those occasions, however, the Jambos have had a much larger attacking threat than they may have this Wednesday.
Hopefully, Celtic rise to the challenge and make our dominance count. If Ikpeazu and Naismith both aren’t available, there shouldn’t be too much to be concerned about.