BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Hearts can breath a sigh of relief after it emerged the injuries to Juwon Oshaniwa and Miguel Pallardo are not as bad as first feared.
Both players limped off after 71 minutes of Sunday’s bruising 1-0 win over Dundee United at Tannadice, sparking fears the key duo could be set for lengthy lay-offs.
Pallardo took a heavy knock to his calf, while Nigerian internationalist Oshaniwa suffered a hamstring injury. However, scans on Monday showed that neither problem is serious.
It is understood Hearts will monitor the pair throughout the early part of this week and that they could be in contention for the visit of high-flying Ross County on Saturday.
However, next Wednesday’s mouth-watering League Cup quarter-final against Celtic could prove to be a more realistic return date, with head coach Robbie Neilson keen to have Pallardo and Oshaniwa available for the visit of the Hoops.
In further positive fitness news for Neilson, luckless striker Soufian El Hassnaoui has stepped up his return from a devastating knee injury.
The 25-year-old suffered the cruciate ligament damage during the Jambos’ 1-0 defeat against Preston in July, curtailing what had been a heartening pre-season campaign from the front-man.
It was a hammer-blow for El Hassnaoui, whose maiden season at Tynecastle was hampered by fitness struggles. He made just 10 starts following his arrival from Sparta Rotterdam last summer as he battled groin and ankle complaints.
However, he can finally see light at the end of the tunnel after making his long-awaited comeback for Hearts’ development squad on Monday evening.
The big Dutch-Moroccan played the final half-hour of the 1-0 defeat against St Johnstone’s second string at Ochilview and showed no ill-effects of the outing.
Neilson is thought to be keen for El Hassnaoui to get another development squad outing under his belt, but could come into first-team consideration by the end of the month.