Hearts face Greek side PAOK in the Europa Conference League play-off on Thursday and there are a few key updates regarding player availability ahead of the crucial clash.
After a 2-1 defeat to Rosenborg in Norway, the Tynecastle side were able to bounce back to a 3-1 win in Edinburgh and secure their pathway to the next round of the qualifiers. Their Edinburgh rivals Hibs will also be taking part in the play-off stage of the qualifiers as they face Premier League’s Aston Villa tomorrow night (Wednesday 23 August).
One figure the Jambos should be able to rely on is Barrie McKay who was sidelined for several months with an ankle problem which required surgery until he returned as sub against Rosenborg and then played from the start against Partick.
Speaking ahead of the fixture, McKay spoke to Edinburgh News saying: “It definitely did drag on especially when all the boys are training and playing pre-season games. Then the season starts and you are on the sidelines. You’re itching to go and they are trying to hold you back a wee bit.
“I feel good and sharp. I obviously still have a wee bit of rustiness from not playing many games, but I feel fit. I’ve done all my rehab stuff, done all the work with the physios and sports scientists, so I feel ready.”
However, Hearts are still to be without Craig Halkett and Craig Gordon. Halkett suffered an anterior cruciate ligament back in December and has been unseen on the pitch since while Gordon was subjected to a horror double leg break back in the same game.
There were no fresh injury concerns following the Jambos’ fixture against Rosenborg with fans hoping this remains the case as they make their final preparations ahead of Thursday night’s clash.
Meanwhile, their opponents have not had such luck and could miss duo Mbwana Samata and Ivan Nasberg through injury. Samata was forced off the pitch during PAOK’s opening Greek Super League win over Asteras Tripolis. He hobbled off with what appeared to be an ankle injury and will now face a race against time to be ready for Tynecastle on Thursday.
Norway’s Nasberg has been missing for the last 12 games and will undergo a fitness test to determine whether he will make the trip to Scotland.