Thursday, 14 July 2016

Birkirkara F.C. vs Heart of Midlothian F.C. Europa League Match Preview And Prediction - July 15, 2016


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First meeting between the clubs. Hearts have avoided defeat in 9 of their last 11 away games in this competition. Birikirkara's win over Široki Brijeg last week was only the 4th time they've won a European tie. They've never won 2 in the same season.

Birkirkara could hand a debut to forward Dejan Djordjevic who signed for the club this week. Hearts midfielder Don Cowie returns to the squad following a calf injury that kept him out of the last round. Midfield duo Morgaro Gomis and Billy King have left the club.

Hearts were pretty impressive in the 1st Qualifying Round as they won both legs and cruised to a 6-3 aggregate win against Estonian side Infonet. Most of their hard work was done in the away 2nd leg which they won 4-2 and never seriously looked in danger in no small part thanks to a brace from Igor Rossi. It was an impressive return to European football for the Edinburgh club who have embraced every challenge put in front of them over the past couple of years. Their away record in this competition is actually very good and they’ve lost 1 of their last 7 away matches in it and that includes trips to Anfield and White Hart Lane.

Birkirkara are the clear underdogs both on the night and over 2 legs but Hearts might be wise to take warning from their showing against British opposition last year when they drew 1-1 on aggregate with West Ham and were only defeated on penalties. They’ve progressed into this round with a 3-1 aggregate win against ┼áiroki Brijeg of Bosnia but could only finish 3rd in the Maltese top flight last season.

Their 2nd leg win over West Ham 12 months ago may be one of their best ever results but it should be put in the context that West Ham were seemingly more concerned with building up fitness for the new season than taking the competition entirely seriously. Hearts looked sharp in Estonia last week and will be desperate for European progress.

They are a positive side and both teams have scored in 6 of their last 7 matches. Given Birkirkara will view home advantage as their best chance of causing an upset in this tie, we could see an open game with goals in it but Hearts have more quality and should ultimately clinch a 3rd win of the season in Europe. Therefore backing Hearts to win & over 2.5 goals at 7/4 looks to offer value here.

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