Hibs v Hearts team news: 8 key stars out, Lee Johnson faces wait over ace, Steven Naismith set for duo boost
There will be a new face in the away dugout with Steven Naismith having been put in interim charge of the Tynecastle Park side following the sacking of Robbie Neilson on Sunday as the team slipped from third to fourth. Hearts are currently on a run of five straight defeats with six losses in their last seven. Hibs too are in a difficult moment, losing their last four which has put their top six place in jeopardy.
Lee Johnson will go into his latest Edinburgh derby without a number of key players who have been long-term absentees. Aiden McGeady and Martin Boyle are out for the season, while Rocky Bushiri and Kyle Magennis will likely miss out. The biggest question surrounds the fitness of Paul Hanlon. The experienced centre-back missed the 2-1 defeat to Dundee United at the weekend with the Hibs boss having to field a partnership which consisted of two 20-year-olds in Conrad Egan-Riley and Will Fish.
"Of course the defence missed Paul Hanlon – he's the daddy in there,” Johnson said after the Tannadice loss. “It's just the verbals and the organisation, but he couldn't play, it was impossible with his knee. He was in too much pain and we've got to wrap him up in cotton wool to try to make sure he's available for next weekend.”
Naismith, like his counterpart, will be without a host of key men who have been long-term absentees. Craig Gordon and Craig Halkett won’t be back this season with the Scottish Sun reporting the former is to undergo a mini-operation following his double leg break earlier in the season. Beni Baningime and Liam Boyce continue working back to full fitness having been out for more than a year and most of the season respectively. Gary Mackay-Steven remains out while Robert Snodgrass is suspended but is unlikely to play for the team again.
In good news for the interim boss, Zander Clark and Josh Ginnelly could be set to return to the squad after missing the St Mirren defeat.
“He's got a bone bruise on his foot,” former boss Neilson said of Ginnelly post-match. “To be honest, he's been carrying it for a few weeks now. He got another knock last week and we hoped we could manage him through it, but it just wasn't ready in time. We hope that with missing this game then he'll be ready for next week.
“Hopefully we’ll have Zander and Ginnelly back for that one. It was too early for them today and I thought we missed them both. It will be good to get them back in.”
Naismith spoke with HeartsTV for the first time as Hearts boss on Wednesday.
"It’s a fantastic game to start with," he said of the derby. “The response we’ve had from the squad has been really good. It’s been a long couple of days but there’s still a lot more work to go into this. The change around the training set-up, the preparations for the game, the enthusiasm to learn. They’ve shown a real willingness to work hard.
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