Birkirkara coach Drazen Besek admits he hasn’t watched a single Hearts match prior to tonight’s Europa League tie in Malta.
The Croatian insists he is only focused on his own team and has seen just five minutes of Hearts highlights.
The Maltese are without experienced centre-back Pedrag Jovic through injury, but Besek is confident his team can spring a surprise at the modest Hibernians Stadium.
He named winger Jamie Walker as a danger to Birkirkara’s hopes of progressing to the competition’s third qualifying round. He admitted being too preoccupied with his team’s preparations to study Hearts in detail.
“I have no interest in opponents. I think only about my team,” he said. “I watched five minutes of Hearts highlights. I saw the goals, the free-kicks and the corners [against Infonet in the last round], but tomorrow is a new game. I know the philosophy of Scottish football. Hearts have many foreign players. It’s one game, 90 minutes, and fight.
“The whole Hearts team is dangerous. You come from Scotland and the level of Scottish football is different. On the pitch, we are going to fight for our position. I cannot say some of Hearts players are dangerous but they have quality. Walker, for example, is a good player but I could speak about many players from Hearts.”
The loss of 29-year-old Jovic is a major problem for Birkirkara. A linchpin in their back line, he will not play this evening and is unlikely to feature in next week’s second leg at Tynecastle.
“We have a problem with Jovic because he was injured in the last game. He told us about his leg and he must take ten or 15 days out. We will have another option,” said Besek.
Birkirkara took West Ham to penalties in last year’s Europa League qualifying rounds.
“That was a different team with a different coach. Now we have many new players, we are preparing for our new season and it is good for us to play against Hearts,” said Besek. “Nobody is going into the game to lose. We want to win, so we will see.”
Perry Kitchen, Hearts’ American midfielder, stressed he and his colleagues have travelled to the Mediterranean island seeking nothing less than victory.
“A good result for us is a win. It’s going to be tough, this is a very motivated team and we’ve studied them. We know they’re a good side but you always go out to win,” said Kitchen.
“I don’t think we need a different mentality than we had against Infonet. We are playing a team who will be tough to break down. They will be up for the challenge. They aren’t going to quit and those are the hardest teams to beat.”