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Beni Baningime in line for Hearts debut against Celtic

Everton v Gor Mahia – SportPesa Trophy – Goodison Park
(Image credit: Richard Sellers)

New arrival Beni Baningime could start for Hearts in their cinch Premiership opener against Celtic.

The midfielder trained with Hearts on Thursday morning ahead of signing a three-year contract after the Premiership newcomers secured his transfer from Everton.

The 22-year-old has made 12 Everton appearances and also featured for Derby on loan last season.

Speaking hours before the transfer was completed, Hearts manager Robbie Neilson said “We still have a few things to iron out but he brings energy to the midfield, he is obviously of good stock, he has played six Premier League games and 12 games as a whole for a top team.

“He brings energy, work ethic, moves the ball quickly. It’s an area we wanted to try and build on this season and hopefully he can do that for us.

“He has trained with us and he has played some games down there, was involved with the first team training before they went to Florida, so he is in a good place fitness wise.

“We will assess him ahead of the weekend. He will definitely be in the squad, it’s just whether he starts or not.”

Hearts had a slow start to their summer transfer business but Neilson targeted quality over quantity.

“We are still working away, we still have areas we need to work on,” he said. “But we waited to try and get a player of Beni’s calibre, and managed to do that, and will continue to do that for the other guys.”

Hearts host a wounded Celtic on Saturday night after Ange Postecoglou’s reign started with a Champions League exit at the hands of Midtjylland.

The Australian again expressed frustration over delays in signing players after Wednesday’s extra-time defeat in Denmark.

And Hearts are looking to capitalise as former Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon targets a 12th consecutive clean sheet.

Neilson said: “We had a really good Premier Sports Cup run, we had a really good run at the end of last season. So we are confident going into this game and hoping to win it.

“But we also know that, although Celtic had a difficult result, they are still a very good team. They still  have international players almost right throughout the team.

“So we have to be wary of that but we also see an opportunity for us to go and implement how we want to play in the game, and hopefully win it.”