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Hibernian’s next three games are critical in their bid to end a topsy-turvy campaign with European qualification, according to manager Lee Johnson.

Last weekend’s defeat to Motherwell has left the Easter Road side sixth in the cinch Premiership, just one point ahead of seventh-place Livingston.

While they are still within five points of third-place Hearts and in the mix for a return to Europe, Johnson knows that failure to deal with the next three matches before the split – against Dundee United, Hearts and St Johnstone – could see his side end his first campaign in charge in the bottom six.

“The next three games are big because we want to achieve something,” he said. “It’s been a bit of a battle for us this year but we’re in the mix to have the potential for success.

“I wanted to come in and absolutely blitz it and challenge the Old Firm and all that sort of thing, but the realist knows it takes time.

“We’re still on this journey. Last weekend was a big blip. We seem to take two steps forward, one step back too many times but over the course we are still moving forward with the decisions we make.”

Johnson is delighted to welcome back Elie Youan for this Sunday’s trip to bottom-of-the-table United after the French forward missed the Motherwell defeat through suspension.

“Elie was in good form before his suspension,” said the manager. “Sometimes you realise what you’re missing when they’re out the team, and I think (Youan being suspended last weekend) was a good example of that.

“We didn’t quite stretch the opposition like we do when Elie’s playing on form. I’m pretty sure he’ll come back into the starting XI based on the previous match and his previous form.”