Hearts boss puts full focus into Scottish Cup final and insists his team are capable of pulling rabbit out the hat


Hearts manager Craig Levein insists form will have no bearing in the Scottish Cup final after claiming his team are more than capable of pulling a rabbit out of the hat when it is least expected.

Levein has also said his priority in the remaining two games against Aberdeen, whom they play tomorrow night, and fellow cup finalists Celtic is to make sure his squad is in prime physical condition for the May 25 showdown.

A Europa League berth is out of sight following a barren run of two Premiership victories from 11 and despite his team being bereft of confidence and momentum, Levein insists Hearts can defy the odds to deny the Hoops a treble treble.

He said: “We’ve been so inconsistent that, in some ways, it makes me feel all right. 

“That sounds silly, I know. But we’ve pulled performances from nowhere all season – even in recent months.

“It’s been this kind of season where you would go disappointment, disappointment … wow, great result.

“We think things are slipping and then we come up with a really good performance, a really good result.

“And I think we’ve got another one in us.”

With striker Steven Naismith all but ruled out of the final as he continues his recover from a knee operation and marksman Uche Ikpeazu and midfielder Peter Haring hoping to shake off hamstring and groin problems respectively, Levein is now planning to rest some of his players, despite fifth place Hibs only being three points ahead.

He added: “The way I’m looking at it now, we can’t really do much about the league position so the important thing now becomes the final. 

“I will be playing some players who haven’t played. 

“That’s for two reasons, to give them game time in case we need them and to give some people some respite before the nitty gritty of the final.

“My main objective now is to try to get everybody fit and available. 

“That will mean we go into the final in the best shape possible.

“That’s the change of focus after losing to Kilmarnock last week; it did change slightly.

“It’s clear now what we’re trying to do.”

Striker Ikpeazu was forced off in last weekend’s defeat to Kilmarnock but Levein is optimistic the powerful Englishman will be available

He added: “He is improving. It is really minor. 

“These things tend to have quite definable recovery periods. The quickest is just a wee strain which is 10-14 days and that is the category we are looking at. 

“He still has good strength in his hamstrings and the belly of the muscle is not a problem. 

“I’m not 100 per cent certain that he will be okay but that is the kind of timescale if things go to plan. So he should be alright for the final.”

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