The pressure is all on Hearts – Birkirkara coach

Birkirkara head coach Drazen Besek

Birkirkara head coach Drazen Besek

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BIRKIRKARA coach Drazen Besek insists the pressure is solely on Hearts ahead of tonight’s Europa League clash.

The Maltese club, who held their Scottish counterparts to a 0-0 draw in Paola last week, will celebrate the biggest achievement in their history if they reach the third qualifying round.

Besek attempted to deflect attention away from his players by stating Hearts are strong favourites and need a result.

“Only one game has ended. The first half finished in Malta and the result, for us, is a great achievement,” said the Croatian. “We know we are not favourites but we came here to fight for our future. We will see what we can do on the pitch.

“Hearts are a good team, a young team with a young coach. All the pressure is on them. They need this, we don’t.

“In football, everything is possible and we know this. It’s very difficult to say who will win because they have quality. What is quality? We are confident. We know what we can do and this game is important for our future.”

Although Birkirkara defended in numbers in the first leg, Besek stressed they will not just sit back at Tynecastle.

“I spoke with my players about my gameplan. We expect big pressure from the home team. That is normal. We didn’t come here to wait until they score.

“We came here to fight, to make something good happen for our people from Malta. We are proud because we came here with a good result.”

Asked if he identified any weaknesses in Hearts from the first leg, he replied: “I haven’t an interest about Hearts because I can’t do anything about Hearts.

“I think only about my team and what we can do. That is all. Hearts have quality in some players but all teams have some quality.”

No Maltese club has ever reached the third qualifying round of a European competition. Birkirkara knocked out the Bosnian club Siroki Brijeg in the Europa League first qualifying round and earned the right to meet Hearts.

Captain Gareth Sciberras admitted eliminating Hearts would be a historic moment for his team.

“If we do go through, it’s the first time for a Maltese club to go through to the third round. For the whole country, it will be a big achievement,” explained the midfielder.

“In the last couple of years, Maltese clubs have been doing fairly well in Europe. We’ve been getting a lot of respect from other teams we play.

“On Tuesday, we saw Valletta having a very good performance against Red Star Belgrade in a 2-1 defeat. There’s a lot of excitement now and we’re the last team in it. People are sending a lot of messages and hopefully we can give them something to cheer about.

“Every game has it’s special moments and coming here to Scotland and having a real shot to qualify for the third round is a big achievement – not only for me, but even for the younger players.”