Head Coach Steven Naismith has provided some good news regarding Hearts’ injury list ahead of Sunday’s cinch Premiership encounter with Celtic at Tynecastle.
The Jambos welcome the champions to Gorgie this weekend and during the international break, Yutaro Oda and Alex Cochrane gained valuable time on the training pitch and are available for selection on Sunday.
Club captain Craig Gordon also made his return to action in a closed-door friendly match, meanwhile Craig Halkett is also stepping up his rehab as he recovers from a cruciate ligament injury sustained on Christmas Eve.
Speaking to the media at the pre-match press conference, Naismith said:
“Craig Gordon got some minutes in a game that we played during the break. That is the first next step for him. That is brilliant for him, and he is now in the zone where he needs some minutes to sharpen up but in terms of training, he is consistently training now.
“Craig Halkett has come back onto the training pitch to be involved with the group at times. This is not a short-term, he’ll be back type thing, it’s about him being back integrated with the squad again which is really good.
“Yutaro Oda and Alex Cochrane have also come back in, so they are available. Natty Atkinson and Barrie McKay still have a wee bit of time out.
"Stephen Kingsley has upped his rehab. That stage from his injury until now has progressed well but this next week or so is definitely going to be too quick for him. But he is progressing better than everyone expected which is a positive.”
The Jambos acquitted themselves well for large parts in the most recent meeting between the sides in May, despite being reduced to ten-men and Naismith believes his side can pose the league leaders problems on their trip to Gorgie.
“It’s a big game. The game we played against them last season was entertaining and eventful. Celtic are a team who have had some changes in the summer. With some of the new recruits, I think it has taken a wee bit of time to build relationships, but in the last few weeks you can see they are starting to click.
“They will a carry a threat. They always do. They’re a team that try to play on the front foot and dominate games, but we’re confident that we can put on a show and hopefully take something from the game.
“These games give you an indication of individually or as a group about whether we can compete at this level. All the signs since I have been involved have been that we can compete and that we are getting better.”