Merouana Zemmama is 'miles away', admits Hibs boss

Hibernian manager John Hughes has revealed that he is not expecting the return of midfielder Merouane Zemmama until the end of the year.

The Morocco internationalist ruptured the cruciate ligament in his left knee in a challenge with Falkirk's Marc Twaddle back in March and has been on the slow road to recovery since surgery in April. It is just the latest injury to befall the 26-year-old in recent times, with the former Raja Casablanca player having also been plagued by hamstring problems and back worries last term.

Although Hughes has so far refused to put a time-scale on Zemmama's return, there had been some suggestions that the north African could make his comeback by next month.

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However, Hughes has admitted he is not pinning his hopes on having the skilful play-maker back in action before the turn of the year.

He said: "Zemmama probably won't be back with us until Christmas. He's miles away. The thing about him, though, is you can't ask any more from him than what he's doing in rehab.

"I don't think he's far away from jogging, but he's in safe hands and we just need to make sure his rehab is done in the manner it should be. We can't rush him."

Meanwhile, Graeme Smith has admitted Hibs are eager to atone for last season's incredible 6-6 draw with Motherwell when the sides face each other again on Sunday - but he insists getting the new campaign off to a good start is more important.

Smith - who was between the sticks when the Easter Road side capitulated at Fir Park in May, throwing away a 6-2 lead - said: "The 6-6 game was just one of those games. I've played in a couple of games where it's been 'different', if you like.

"It was just the way the game went, and all of us want to put a marker down and take it forward. But it's more important for the club to get the three points and a good start to the season than anything else that has gone on in the past.

"It's a well-talked-about game. I'm sure we'll all be wanting to go there and get the result this time, and we've all been working extremely hard to do that."

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