20 SPFL stars likely to miss the weekend’s action

Hearts' Callum Paterson will miss the Partick Thistle match with a shoulder injury. Picture: SNS

Hearts' Callum Paterson will miss the Partick Thistle match with a shoulder injury. Picture: SNS

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Injuries and suspension will rob fans of seeing these first team players this weekend.

RANGERS V DUNDEE

Rangers: Michael O’Halloran, Billy King

It’s a bit of a blow for the Scottish Championship leaders to be without their two wingers from Tuesday’s win over Raith Rovers, as both impressed in the 2-0 victory.

The loss will be offset, somewhat, by the returning Barrie McKay. The winger was rested against Raith. His form has dropped a little in recent weeks. While he’s not been poor, he hasn’t quite impacted games in the manner has for most of the campaign. Perhaps the rest will see him back to his best.

Kenny Miller returns (he was also rested) and will fill the void left by Martyn Waghorn’s long-term absence. Harry Forrester will likely shift over to right midfield with Gedion Zelalem also in contention after missing the Raith game with a knock.

Dundee: Darren O’Dea

Paul Hartley is sweating over the fitness of four first team players, three of which are central defenders, with a fourth (James McPake) also definitely out.

It’s not the kind of news Hartley wants to hear before travelling to the joint-highest scorers in Scottish league football this season.

He’s hopeful that Darren O’Dea (groin), Julen Etxabeguren (shoulder) and Thomas Konrad (ankle) will all be available, though having suffered a groin injury just last week, it’s more likely that O’Dea will be the one to sit out.

Should he miss the match, it could be a dreadful (potentially fatal) blow to Dundee’s chances. One of the more porous units in the top flight have suddenly become clean sheet specialists in O’Dea’s time with the club.

Greg Stewart picked up a knock against Celtic but he is expected to play.

ROSS COUNTY V DUNDEE UNITED

Ross County: David Goodwillie, Scott Fox, Craig Curran

Goodwillie may not bring much of a goal threat these days - he’s not scored since September - though County are appreciating what his overall qualities bring to their strike-force and he started instead of top goalscorer Liam Boyce in the midweek win over Kilmarnock.

The loss of goalkeeper Fox, is a massive blow for County, not just for this match but for the League Cup final as well. He’s been in excellent form this season and pressure will rest on Gary Woods to prove himself an able deputy.

One of the more scarier injuries in Scottish football in recent years keeps striker Curran on the sidelines. The Englishman suffered a concussion in August that continues to affect his fitness and general well-being. County fans have a great relationship with the striker, whom they identify as being the player who helped change the attitude of the squad last season, as County made a miraculous escape from relegation.

Dundee United: Eiji Kawashima, Michal Szromnik

The visitors are suffering through a goalkeeping crisis with the two first choice stoppers unavailable through injury and illness, respectively.

Luis Zwick will therefore come back in from the cold. The young German hasn’t started a game since October and may be in for a long day against County, a team that like to get crosses into the penalty area.

CELTIC V MORTON

Celtic: Jozo Simunovic

The centre back’s continued absence with a knee injury means Dedryck Boyata will partner Erik Sviatchenko despite losing the appeal against the red card he received at Hamilton last weekend.

Having been fairly impressed by both Simunovic and Sviatchenko, Celtic fans must be counting down the days when the two can be partnered together at the heart of the defence. Mistakes at the back have plagued Ronny Deila’s side all season.

Nir Bitton may return from a knock that kept him out of the last two games, though it’s unlikely he’ll be rushed back against the Championship side as Celtic should have more than enough to win without his services.

Stefan Johansen also returns to the team, though given his form this season it’s news that won’t exactly excite the Parkhead faithful.

Morton: Paul McMullan, Conor Pepper

Celtic loanee McMullan did not impress during his time with St Mirren earlier in this campaign, though he looks, thus far, more capable of unlocking his undoubted promise with Morton and will be a miss tomorrow. The winger is not eligible to play against his parent club under the terms of the loan deal.

Former Inverness winger Pepper has turned himself into a very effective full back, using his pace and energy to continuously bound up and down the flank. He misses out with a knee inury.

Strikers Alex Samuel and Peter MacDonald remain sidelined while Michael Tidser is rated as a doubt.

HIBERNIAN V INVERNESS CT

Hibs: Marvin Bartley, Jason Cummings, Paul Hanlon

Losing the suspended trio could scarcely have come at a worst time for Hibs, who’ve lost their last three games.

Bartley was excellent in both matches in the last round when Alan Stubbs’ men defeated local rivals Hearts. He provides a real solidity in front of the back four.

Striker Jason Cummings has not been in good form of late, but is always likely to pop up with a goal. The potential silver lining from his absence is that it forces Stubbs to move away from the Cummings-Anthony Stokes duo up front. Aside from a strong first half showing in the replay against Hearts, the two have yet to form a cohesive strike-partnership.

Centre back Paul Hanlon is of tremendous importance to the Hibs side, having enjoyed a stellar season marshalling the back four.

Inverness CT: David Raven

ICT could welcome back both Josh Meekings and James Vincent for the cup quarter-final. While it’s doubtful either would start as they’ve been out for two months, Vincent may be called upon to add some energy off the bench. The midfielder works himself tirelessly and is an important cog in Inverness’ high pressing system.

One player who will definitely return is Ross Draper after missing the midweek defeat to Hearts through suspension. They’ll need his strength and experience in the centre, particularly if this match descends into an old-fashioned cup tie (sorry for the cliché).

Raven is just one of several players missing through injury for manager John Hughes. Deputy Lewis Horner has come in for criticism from fans over recent performances.

HEARTS V PARTICK THISTLE

Hearts: Callum Paterson

The hosts will be without their rampaging right back, though young defender Liam Smith filled in effectively against Inverness and will likely be trusted against Partick Thistle.

Neilson normally likes to tinker a little with his side, so expect a change or two. Although, having said that, Smith was the only alternation between their last two games. Perhaps Neilson is reining it in a little.

Today brought with it the news that attacker Soufian El Hassnaoui could miss the entire season through injury.

Partick Thistle: Steven Lawless, Mustapha Dumbuya

Stuart Bannigan and Lawless both picked up knocks during the midweek win over St Johnstone with the latter a more serious concern.

The midfielder netted in Wednesday’s win over St Johnstone and if he misses the trip to Tynecastle then look for either Aidan Nesbitt or Christie Elliot (or possibly both) to come back into the side.

The attacking midfielders were excellent in the previous match against St Johnstone a week prior, but were dropped to the bench for the trip to McDiarmid Park following a poor showing against Motherwell. Nesbitt is a teenager and Elliot has only just returned from long-term injury, so a dip in form was forgivable.

Gary Miller, having suffered a rough start to his Thistle career following last summer’s switch, has impressed of late as he fills in for Dumbuya, who is expected back soon from an ankle injury.

HAMILTON V MOTHERWELL

Hamilton: Jesus Garcia Tena

Accies will continue with the central defensive pairing of Lucas and Mikey Devlin after the pair put in strong showings in last Friday’s draw with Celtic.

Defence has, ironically, been Hamilton’s real strength after they lost eight goals in one game against Celtic. They’ve conceded only three goals in five matches since.

Danny Redmond could make just his fifth appearance of the season against local rivals Motherwell. The midfielder recently recovered from a rib injury.

Motherwell: Joe Chalmers

Veteran left back Stevie Hammell finally seems to have got to grips with his fitness, which is just as well with Chalmers out of the side.

Morgaro Gomis is back in contention after a short injury. However, considering how well the Steelmen played against Thistle in their last match, he’ll be lucky to get a start.

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