Steven Naismith will miss out on tomorrow’s head to head with Motherwell after a scan showed fluid around his hamstring.
The injury has limited the striker’s involvement for Hearts this term and denied him the chance to seal a spot in the Scotland Hall of Fame, by earning his 50th cap against Russia or Belgium.
Hearts manager Craig Levein had hoped to have him available for the return to club business but, without guarantees that he would make it through the fixture unscathed, the Gorgie boss has opted for patience.
“I didn’t want to take a risk. He trained with Scotland and he came in afterwards and said his hamstring felt a bit tight,” said Naisy’s club gaffer. “There was a little bit of inflammation. That’s why I’m not pushing him for the weekend.
“He didn’t do a pre-season, which I don’t think is a good thing, ever. His knee was still recovering from surgery and he did a lot of work on his own but that’s not the same thing.
“I couldn’t start him in the Hamilton game and I want to get completely away from this cycle of him being maybe available; not available; can only play half an hour.”
Instead the player will focus on strengthening programmes as he seeks to regain the fitness levels and the form that made him a stand-out performer for the club prior to his knee injury last season.
“I need to manage that as best as possible,” added Levein. “What I do think is that if I put him on the field on Saturday, I couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t break down. That’s my primary concern.
“The whole point of having a squad is that someone else needs to step up. It’s up to the other players to fill in.”
With Bobby Burns off on a season loan to Newcastle Jets in Australia, Levein will also be missing Manchester United loan keeper Joel Pereira and defender John Souttar, while Peter Haring and Ben Garuccio are still out.
But Michael Smith trained on Thursday and depending on how he reacts, may come into contention.