Craig Levein insists Hearts will set out to try and beat Celtic despite going into the match with several key players missing.
The Jambos face the Champions in a 12.30pm kick-off on Sunday as they look to extend a five game unbeaten run. Victories over Motherwell and Dundee in the past week have boosted confidence ahead of the showdown with Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Speaking to the press on Friday morning, Craig provided an update on the injury situation ahead of this weekend.
“Arnaud got a kick in his achilles on Tuesday and as a result he’ll probably be out until the winter break, so that’s a bit of a blow,” he explained.
“Jamie Walker is better but he’s unlikely to be ready for Sunday. Aaron Hughes is also getting better but again I don’t think he’ll be ready for Sunday. Obviously we have John Souttar suspended as well so it’s not ideal.
“That being said, we’re going to try and beat Celtic. Listen, they’ve got the best players in the league and their 69 game unbeaten run is a remarkable statistic.
“But they have at times been close to losing matches and all of the teams, like ourselves, are relying on performing to the maximum and Celtic not being at their best.”
The absence of Djoum and Walker may result in Craig once again turning to 16-year-olds Harry Cochrane and Anthony McDonald in midfield. The latter made his debut in Tuesday’s win over Dundee, providing both assists in an impressive performance.
Craig was quick to praise both players for the way they’ve handled first team football so far.
“Their mentality is good and the risk is mitigated a bit by the fact they’ve trained with the first team since the summer,” he said.
“You see them in that environment and you recognise that they’re capable of competing football-wise, perhaps not so much physically, but certainly in terms of their ability.
“They’ve done better than I expected and that’s a great credit for them. We’ve had injuries to players for a few months now so I’ve not had much choice. But the pleasing thing is they’ve all come in at different points and contributed. They play with an enthusiasm that’s really infectious.
“As much as you can talk about risks and worries, I’ve been thrilled with how they’ve coped with each individual situation.
“The supporters have been great with them as well. They’re very educated, they recognise that a young player at 16 is very different from a young player at 19. So they understand that we’re in a bit of a spot here and some of the youngsters are playing because of that.”