John Souttar returns from injury for final games of Hearts season

The Scotland defender is in Robbie Neilson's squad to face Celtic after two months out with an ankle injury.

John Souttar returns from injury for final games of Hearts season SNS Group

Hearts injury list is easing ahead of the season’s finale with John Souttar, Michael Smith and Cammy Devlin available to Robbie Neilson again this weekend.

The trio have missed a number of games with Souttar having minor surgery on his ankle, Smith managing a back complaint and Devlin a hamstring injury.

Souttar will leave Hearts at the end of the season to sign for Rangers under freedom of contract.

The trio’s return is a boost ahead of the Scottish Cup Final on May 21, with defender Craig Halkett also expected back from his ankle injury ahead next week.

Hearts face Celtic away on Saturday in a game where a win for Ange Postecoglou’s team would all but seal the Scottish Premiership title.

Neilson said: “Souttar, Smith and Devlin will all be involved with the group tomorrow – we just have to build them back in again.

“We are gradually getting there and I am pleased with the way it is going.

“Bench-wise in the last couple of weeks we have been down to the bare bones but we are starting to get them back now.

“A couple of them will be on the bench tomorrow, some of them will be involved [against Motherwell] on Wednesday then I would like to try and get the majority of them ready for the following week against Rangers at Tynecastle.

“It really important mentally for the players that they are ready for it, but also physically to get them that game time before we go in to a big game.”

That Hampden showdown against Rangers will come just four days after the Ibrox club contest the Europa League Final against Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.

Neilson hailed the achievement of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team in reaching the showpiece match and said it great for the sport in Scotland.

He said: “We have been knocked for years about Scottish football but you can see it is definitely on the up.

“We have teams doing well in Europe, Rangers qualifying for a final, the national team getting to the Euros and a couple of games away from the World Cup.

“The longer that teams do well in Europe the greater the co-efficient, which makes it easier to get into the group stages.

“Five or six years ago we have to go through four rounds but because everyone is doing well we are now at a stage where it is just one qualifying round.

“If we continue to do well then hopefully we will get teams directly into these group stages which then helps us attract players, brings the budget up and everything spirals from there.”

Asked if the magnitude of Rangers’ match so close to their Scottish Cup clash would have a bearing on the preparations, Neilson said: “To be honest it doesn’t do anything for our preparation at all. We will focus on ourselves.

“Obviously we will watch Rangers’ games and that game as well but from our perspective it is just about getting to the cup final in the best condition we can be.”