Hibernian winger Martin Boyle’s fitness levels have been thrown into doubt just several weeks before their Betfred Cup semi-final clash with Celtic.
Boyle hasn’t played a single league game for the Hibees this season. Despite that, he remains one of their biggest threats, and is a constant pain for Celtic when he plays against us.
Boyle netted at Celtic Park last season, with a fine chip over Craig Gordon in a 4-2 defeat. Added to that, he’s also played a part in several of Hibs’ successes against us in the past.
The Australian international stated on Twitter last month that he would be fit to go for after the international break. However, manager Heckingbottom told Edinburgh News that he won’t be ready to go straight into first-team action.
“He is not going to get thrown straight back in. He is going to have to train and play games before he plays first team football.
“Darren’s (McGregor) a pelvic issue and he has to keep ticking things off and get to the point where he is comfortable. David’s (Gray) going to be a while. Vicky (Slivka) is straightforward, returning from a cracked bone.
“Whether they’re back for the game after the international break, I don’t know, but they’re all on the right path.”
Race against time for our rivals
When Hibs return to action from the international break, their big stars have two weeks to get fit before they face us. Added to that, centre-back Ryan Porteous, who scored against Aberdeen at the weekend, is out through suspension.
The concern for Celtic is obvious of course. All the players Heckingbottom mentioned on his injury list had all missed the 1-1 draw at Easter Road too. Hibs proved that, even without some of their key men, they can give us a few problems.
Of course, it’s important to point out that they were extremely fortunate to get away with the draw in hindsight. It was perhaps the most dominant Celtic have been at Easter Road for some time. Considering they were missing so many key players, that probably wasn’t too surprising.
But Boyle, in particular, adds more directness to Hibs. Even though we’re likely to have the impressive-looking Hatem Abd Elhamed at right-back for the Hampden semi, we can’t afford to be complacent here.
It remains to be seen if any of Hibs’ multiple injury concerns ease up before November 2nd. But if they don’t, then you can’t see them sneaking another result from Celtic this time around.
Even if Boyle in particular is fit, you wonder how ready he’ll be in just three weeks’ time. For a player who’s missed so much football, Heckingbottom may want to protect him. Hibs still don’t look in great shape despite taking a point from us two weeks ago. But all eyes will be on whether their injured stars recover in time.