Hearts are set to be boosted by the timely return of Blazej Augustyn as they aim to derail the Aberdeen juggernaut on Sunday – and are hopeful Morgaro Gomis could also be available.
Augustyn, 27, managed two appearances for his new club before surgery on a troublesome hernia injury saw him sidelined for over a month.
However, the former Catania defender played 67 minutes in Hearts’ Development League fixture against St Mirren on Tuesday and emerged from the 1-1 draw unscathed. The towering Pole will now come into contention for this weekend’s mouth-watering clash against Aberdeen at Tynecastle as head coach Robbie Neilson aims to solve his defensive conundrum.
Juwon Oshaniwa is banned following his dismissal for lashing out at Inverness’ Tobi Sho-Silva during Friday night’s 2-0 defeat in the Highlands, meaning Igor Rossi is likely to be deployed at left-back against the Dons.
That could see Augustyn come straight back into the side at centre-back, although Jordan McGhee is another capable option for Neilson. Speaking immediately after Augustyn’s outing, Hearts’ development squad manager Jack Ross said: “We had a number of experienced players on the pitch, so, from their point of view, it was good to get some minutes under their belt.
“Particularly for Blazej Augustyn, who is looking to build up his fitness ahead of the busy week ahead.”
Meanwhile, Gomis has not trained this week following a family bereavement.
The experienced midfielder was a notable absentee for the defeat against Inverness following the news, and he immediately travelled to Paris.
The 30-year-old was still out of the country during the early part of this week as his Hearts team-mates began preparations for the visit of Derek McInnes’ league leaders.
The Tynecastle outfit will not rush Gomis’ return to the fold and will give the player as much compassionate leave as he requires.
However, given his importance to Neilson’s team, Hearts have not ruled the Senegal international out of Sunday’s clash if he chooses to make himself available – and are quietly confident he could feature.
A similarly late decision will be made on the fitness of key winger Jamie Walker.
The 22-year-old, who scored 11 goals in 35 games last season, has been hampered by a persistent knee complaint in recent weeks and has been prescribed rest.
However, Neilson will give the player every opportunity to play some part, given Walker – a second-half substitute against Inverness on Friday – represents one of Hearts’ most potent attacking threats.