Hull boss Steve Bruce is convinced Nikica Jelavic can return to save his side from relegation, starting with Saturday’s crucial Barclays Premier League clash with Burnley.
Bruce insists the Tigers would not have faced such a nervous end to the campaign had the Croatian - their leading scorer with eight goals - not been laid low with a knee injury for long periods.
Jelavic was on the bench for Monday night’s home defeat to Arsenal and Bruce faces the “awkward and horrible” decision of whether to risk him from the start against the Clarets.
Bruce said: “It’s a decision I’ve got to take and I hope I pick the right one.
“It’s typical of Jelavic - he’s had two operations on his knee but he was determined to play a part in the run-in so he has made himself available and gives us another option.
“Our problems this season coincided with the loss of Jelavic. He came in and scored eight goals in 15 games and if he hadn’t been injured I don’t think we’d have been in the problems we are in.”
Jelavic could start in place of Sone Aluko, who was ineffective in the loss to the Gunners which left the Tigers teetering one point above the drop zone and ended a run of two straight wins.
Team news: Mo Diame will undergo knee surgery on Tuesday and is out for the season. Top scorer Nikica Jelavic, however, could return to the starting XI after a brief cameo from the bench against Arsenal.
Last six games: Hull City LLLWWL, Burnley LDDLLL.
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Last time: Hull City 0 Burnley 1; November 24, 2012; Championship. Dean Marney scores the only goal against his former club.
Key man: Danny Ings. Had a wretched ten-game run without a goal but will be staying in the Premier League after impressing a host of managers this term.
Talking point: Hull have lost eight of their last nine games against Burnley. That run cannot surely afford to continue today if the Tigers are to stay up.