HEARTS MANAGER Craig Levein has revealed he expects Steven Naismith back from injury this week – and Manchester City attacker Ryotaro Meshino to finally complete his loan move.
Levein is also hopeful that experienced defender Michael Smith was withdrawn in time to prevent any serious damage to his hamstring during Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Celtic.
But the Tynecastle boss has confessed Scotland defender John Souttar’s ankle injury, which has plagued him since the opening weekend of the Premiership campaign, is taking longer than expected to clear up.
Naismith has been sidelined since being substituted at half-time during the goalless draw with Ross County over a fortnight ago.
The Scotland internationalist had only just returned to action following knee surgery and the protracted completion of his permanent switch to Hearts from Norwich City.
However, the 32-year-old is on schedule to be available again for the visit of Hamilton Accies this weekend.
And the the former Rangers and Kilmarnock player is expected to be joined in the squad by Japanese forward Meshino.
The 21-year-old has been recruited by Hearts on a season-long loan from Manchester City but his arrival has been delayed by paperwork.
The youngster only signed for City earlier this month from Gamba Osaka in his hometown.
Hearts have now secured a work permit for the player, who is hopeful of also having his UK visa approved on Tuesday by the Japanese authorities, leaving him free to travel to Edinburgh on Wednesday.
Levein explained: “I think Naisy will be okay for the game but John’s ankle’s not responding as well as we thought, so I don’t know if he’s going to make it.
“Ryotaro should be in this week, so I think we’ll look different and we’ll definitely have more of an attacking threat with Naisy and Ryotaro coming into the side.”
Smith became the latest Hearts player to pick up an injury when he was replaced after just 18 minutes in Sunday’s loss to Celtic.
However, Levein is optimistic the Jambos acted in time to prevent any lasting damage and is hopeful of having the Northern Ireland internationalist fit to face Accies on Saturday.
Levein added to Hearts TV: “Michael’s hamstring had been bothering him in the latter part of the week but he trained [on Saturday] and felt okay, so obviously we took a chance to get him on the field.
“He was doing well but he said it was starting to tighten up.
“Then, of course, if he does tear it then it’s something like 12 weeks, and that becomes an issue.
“So, he came off and hopefully it’s nothing too serious and he can be back on the field next week.”