Hearts Euro latest: Mesut Ozil out but so is Craig Halkett as big players fail to prove their fitness ahead of Istanbul tie

Hearts have been handed a boost ahead of their Europa Conference League match against Istanbul Basaksehir with the news that Mesut Ozil did not make the trip to Edinburgh.

But the capital club will tackle the first of their six group matches without key man Craig Halkett after it emerged that the defender has failed to recover from injury in time for the tie.

The Turkish side, who are the top seeds in Group A, are unbeaten since March, and have arrived in Scotland in a bullish mood, confident they can qualify for the knockout stages.

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But they will not be able to call on the services of former German international Ozil, who has only just resumed training following illness.

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“He had flu and he did not train well for the next ten days,” explained manager Emre Belozoglu. “He started back yesterday [Tuesday] but stayed in Istanbul so maybe we will have him for the next game.”

While Hearts will not have to worry about the former Real Madrid and Arsenal midfielder, they still face a tough task as they line-up against an in-form team minus pivotal players of their own. As well as Halkett, Hearts boss Robbie Neilson will be without long-term absentees Kye Rowles, Liam Boyce and Beni Baningime.

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Neilson admits that injury disruptions have impacted their consistency levels, with the team winning just one of their last six matches, he believes the fact they ran Swiss champions FC Zurich so close in the Europa League play-off has given his players belief.

“They're an extremely good team with some really experienced international players. It's going to be a tough night but we're at Tynecastle. We played Zurich recently and did very well in that game and we hope we can bring the same kind of energy and spirit.

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Hearts defender Craig Halkett went off injured early in the Europa League play off match against FC Zurich and will now sit out the Conference League group game against Istanbul Basaksehir. Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group

“The last two results have not been good enough for the football club but it happens in football. We've now got to push forward.

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“We're playing group-stage European football and we're sitting fourth in the league so we've got to look at the positives. Yes, we'd like to win every game but it's not going to happen where we are at the moment so we have to take the next game as it comes and hopefully take care of it.”



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