DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Hearts head coach Robbie Nielsen has confirmed that Perry Kitchen will miss Thursday's Europa League game.
Hearts head into the home leg of their second-round qualifying matchup with Maltese team Birkirkara with the aggregate score knotted at zero goals apiece, a precarious position for both teams.
Kitchen had started the first leg in Malta last Thursday, however was forced out of the game after a half-hour of play with what turned out to be a slight hamstring strain.
While Nielsen did confirm to local press outlet Edinburgh News that the injury was not a long-term concern, he did all but rule out Kitchen's participation in Thursday's game by bluntly stating "I don't think he'll make it" to local reporters.
Should Hearts be successful in securing advancement in Thursday's game at Tynecastle, the former DC United midfielder is fully expected to be back on the field for their third-round tie against Russians Krasnodar, which begins one week later.
Kitchen's lack of playing time during the recent Copa América semifinal run by the US National team was likely the main factor responsible for him immediately returning to the playing field for Hearts immediately upon its completion.
He did help them to easily advance past Estonian foes Infonet Tallinn in the first round, although possibility that the lack of time off after the gruelling summer national team schedule contributed to his injury could be a warning sign to the coaching staff as they gear up for the upcoming domestic season.
The Scottish Premier League season begins the weekend of August 6.