Thursday, 30 June 2016

Heart of Midlothian vs FC Infonet UEFA Europa League First qualifying Football Match Preview And Prediction - July 1st, 2016

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Hearts continue their impressive return from the depths of Scottish Football when they host Estonian side Infonet in the Europa League 1st Qualifying Round on Thursday.

Perry Kitchen goes straight back into Hearts' squad for their Europa League opener with FC Infonet on Thursday.

The United States midfielder has only just returned from Copa America duty.

Young goalkeeper Jack Hamilton will start against the Estonian minnows following the departure of Neil Alexander earlier this summer.

Fans may also get their first sight of new faces Robbie Muirhead, Conor Sammon and Faycal Rherras, with back-up keeper Paul Gallacher starting on the bench.
'We'll be ready for them'

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson insists his players will be fully prepared for the first round qualifier despite being unable to watch their opponents in the flesh.

The Estonian league takes a short break to allow sides to prepare for European ties, so FC Infonet haven't played since the draw was made.

Neilson and his coaches had to settle for watching DVDs of the Estonians, and speaking to contacts.

"We know their strengths and weaknesses and we'll be ready for them," he said.

"You just have to do your homework and know what you're going to get. We've been watching videos from the moment the tie got announced, so we know the players, we know the way they're going to play and if we perform to the levels that we can, then we should win.

"They've invested a lot in the last couple of years. They've brought in a lot of international players, from Estonia and Russia, so there's experience there.

"The way the game's played over there is low tempo. They're one of the main teams, so they dominate a lot of the possession as well, but coming to Tynecastle is a whole different ball game.

"We'll be looking to put them under a lot of pressure and keep the game at a high tempo. We've got good players here and we hope the atmosphere at Tynecastle takes us through."

The Hearts squad only had four weeks off before returning for pre-season training, but Neilson believes the short break means that they returned in relatively fit state.

He believes it will take four or five games for them to gain full match sharpness, but is confident they can progress through the first round to face either Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia or Birkirkara of Malta in the second qualifying round.

"They'll be ready." he told BBC Scotland. "It's early in pre-season and it's not the best of preparation you could have because it's such a short turnaround, but we have to be prepared.

"We've worked hard in the last two weeks, the new guys have settled in and understand what they need to do. There's still progression to be made, but we're prepared enough to take care of the game.

"In years gone by you'd get seven, eight, nine weeks off, the players would go away and not really do anything all conditioning-wise, then turn up for pre-season and you had to take six to eight weeks to get them ready.

"This year, the players had programmes to do, they came back, we tested them and they were in really good condition, so that meant we could get the ball out straight away and get prepared for this game. We feel we're in a good position."

Neilson hopes to sign at least one player ahead of the next European deadline, should Hearts progress, and continue adding to the squad in this transfer window.

"We've got a strong enough squad at the moment and we're just looking for real quality now," he added.
Infonet 'are not the ball boys'

Experienced Infonet striker Vladimir Voskoboinikov says they are not in Edinburgh "to be ball boys" and insists they have the wherewithal to beat Hearts over the two legs.

"Of course we are here to win, otherwise we wouldn't have come here," the 33-year-old told BBC Scotland.

"Everybody is ready to fight. Hearts are a typical British team playing long balls with big athletes. but we are not the ball boys.

"We want to show Hearts that Estonian guys can also play good football and we are ready to answer them.

"I understand that Hearts may think 'it's good we are playing just an Estonian team who have never played in Europe' but we also are sure in our power."

Hearts provisional squad: Hamilton, Paterson, Rherras, Rossi, Ozturk, Souttar, Oshaniwa, McGhee, Smith, Godinho, Kitchen, Walker, Buaben, Djoum, Nicholson, King, Gomis, Juanma, Sammon, Muirhead, Todorov, Zanatta.

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