Hearts to go all out in bid for Europa League group stages

Robbie Neilson can't wait for Hearts' Europa League campaign to begin
Robbie Neilson can't wait for Hearts' Europa League campaign to begin
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Robbie Neilson insists Hearts will do everything possible to reach the Europa League group phase, although no-one should underestimate the size of the task.

The head coach is preparing for his European debut just two years into his managerial career and is excited at what lies in prospect.

Hearts must negotiate four two-legged qualifying rounds to reach the groups, which start in mid-September. Neilson is keen to have a real go at trying to get there but is aware that some of Europe’s most battle-hardened sides stand in the way.

Hearts are awaiting the draw for the Europa League first qualifying round on Monday, with the first leg on June 30 and the return match on July 7. Scouts will be dispatched to watch opponents and Neilson intends to prepare thoroughly to ensure as long a run in Europe as possible.

“It will be great. The first game is an away game, so right after the draw we will look to get someone out to watch the opposition if they are playing,” Neilson told the Evening News. “We will do homework on them, we’ll look at their games and their style of play.

“It’s a short turnaround in just ten days. There’s the draw, then the away game and then the home game. Hopefully, you then have to go again in the next round. It’s a good experience for the whole club.

“The way the draw is structured, if you get through the first two rounds, great. Then, if you reach the third round, you’re playing against some big teams from big leagues. It’s a real task to try and get to the group stages but it’s something we’re looking forward to having a crack at.”