JOHN SOUTTAR will continue his comeback from injury against Motherwell tonight and Hearts manager Robbie Neilson remains adamant the Rangers-bound defender is in line to play against his future employers in the Scottish Cup final.

As Hearts’ injury concerns ease further ahead of the trip to Hampden in 10 days’ time, Souttar is expected to be an unused substitute at Fir Park, just as he was for Saturday's 4-1 defeat to Celtic. Andy Halliday, Aaron McEneff, Cammy Devlin and Michael Smith are all due to feature against the Steelmen following spells on the sidelines.

Craig Halkett is also scheduled to make his bid for cup final inclusion in the final warm-up match, against Rangers in the league, this weekend.

However, given the 25-year-old has penned a pre-contract agreement to join final opponents Rangers this summer, Souttar’s anticipated return from an ankle injury sustained at the start of March has attracted perhaps the most attention of the walking wounded. With silverware on the line and fitness required to be involved in Scotland’s forthcoming World Cup play-off against Ukraine and Nations League matches, Neilson has backed Souttar to make it.

“We’ll have McEneff, Smith, Devlin, Halliday, and Souttar will be on the bench,” explained Neilson. “He won’t play, but he’ll be available for Saturday. The hope for Halkett is Saturday too.

“I’d rather it was three of four weeks ago because now they’ll go into these games not 100 per cent fit. That’s the dilemma we have. Where will they be fitness-wise going into a massive game?

“They don’t need to prove themselves because they’ve been working hard. It’s more mentally for them to be able to say, ‘I’m ready’. If they’ve played some minutes against Motherwell or against Rangers, they can say ‘I’m ready to go’, as opposed to just rocking up at Hampden.

"But it’s just the nature of where we are at the moment. We just need to assess them all and see where we are.”

Asked specifically about Souttar and his likely availability for the cup final if fit, Neilson added: “John is a Hearts player, and he wants to do well for Hearts. Whenever John plays he’ll give 100 per cent. The carrot for him is the cup final and Scotland in the summer, so he wants to play well and do that.”