Hearts look set to have 2 of their best players back from injury vs Celtic

By David Walton

January 20, 2022

Robbie Neilson has stated that two of Hearts’ biggest players look set to return days before they face Celtic in the Premiership.

A colossal Tynecastle tussle awaits Ange Postecoglou’s men next week in what will be a hostile environment in a venue where we lost 2-1 on opening day.

Recently, the Jambos have been without both Liam Boyce and Beni Baningime. The former did make the bench against St Johnstone during the week, but he wasn’t deemed ready to come for any length of time. Baningime, meanwhile, has been sidelined since December with a knee injury.

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However, Neilson states that Boyce is available for their Scottish Cup clash vs Auchinleck Talbot this weekend, whilst Baningime is in contention for a spot on the bench.

As quoted by Football Scotland, the Hearts boss said: “Boyce is back in so he’ll be available for the weekend. Other than that, we’ve still got Woodburn out with Covid but the rest of them are good.

“Beni’s stepped up his training. He did a bit today and he’ll do some tomorrow. He’ll potentially be with us on the bench but he won’t be ready to start.”

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Hearts look set to have key players back in time for Celtic crunch

Boyce looks primed to be in for a substantial appearance against Celtic. Even if Josh Ginnelly scored a brace against St Johnstone during the week, Boyce remains the number 1 striker. It would be a huge surprise if he was still on the bench come Wednesday night.

Baningime, however, looks like he would have to settle for some minutes from the sidelines. If he returns to the bench against Auchinleck Talbot this weekend then he’ll be available for Wednesday night too. Granted, it’s unlikely he’ll be available to start within a week of Neilson stating that he’s only fit enough for bench appearances.

Regardless, it’s a big boost for Hearts, who showed their attacking threat at Celtic Park back in December. Even though the Hoops ran out 1-0 winners against Neilson’s men, we saw just how close they were to taking a point with some big second-half opportunities.

Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

The games against the Tynecastle side have been close this season, and it’s going to be a serious tester for the new Bhoys who made a big impression on Monday night. Particularly for Hatate if Baningime does make an appearance from the bench. His tough-tackling style would be intriguing to see against Hatate’s dynamism.

For now, we’ll keep an eye on whether either of their injury returnees feature against Talbot. But it could be the case that Neilson will keep them wrapped up in cotton wool for next Wednesday.

It’s shaping up to be an absolute cracker, and an opportunity for Celtic to continue their pressure-piling on Rangers at the top of the Premiership.

In other news, Matt O’Riley’s ex-Fulham coach Peter Grant tells Celtic supporters exactly what to expect