FC Zurich coach Franco Foda discusses Hearts' threats, finances and Swiss pressure

FC Zurich coach Franco Foda openly discussed Hearts’ threats ahead of Thursday’s Europa League play-off and stressed he is not burdened by pressure at the Swiss champions.

Bottom of the Super League with only two points from five matches, Zurich want progress to the tournament’s group phase as a form of redemption. Foda is concerned by the Edinburgh club’s attacking threats as he namechecked Alan Forrest, Barrie McKay and Liam Boyce.

“When it comes to Hearts I’ve watched the last two games against Dundee United and Hibernian,” he explained. “We have analysed our opponents with all of the team. We know it’s a solid team, we know they play high-intensity football, they are very aggressive in one-on-one situations.

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“We know they have individual quality with people like Forrest, McKay and Boyce. We are ready to face them but what is important is what we do, how we prepare for the game and how much conviction we will be able to bring on the pitch.”

The Azerbaijan champions Qarabag eliminated Zurich from the Champions League qualifiers on a 5-4 aggregate last month. The Swiss side dropped into the Europa League to beat Northern Irish club Linfield on a 5-0 aggregate in the second qualifying round. That set up the tie with Hearts.

Domestically, they needed an 85th-minute equaliser to draw at second-bottom Winterthur on Sunday. “The way the game went in the second half on Sunday gave me confidence because we showed a reaction. When it comes to European competition, we’ve been playing better,” admitted Foda.

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“We played a good game against Linfield. We could have beaten Qarabag and qualified. Even though the performance against Winterthur was unacceptable the players know it and I imagine it will not happen it again.

“Of course, the start of the league is not satisfying and we could have got more points. We’ve conceded some poor goals but in Europe we’ve done better and we have a good chance of winning the game.

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FC Zurich staff meet the media in St Gallen ahead of their tie with Hearts.

“It’s the first leg and we all know when you play you face pressure every week. Last year we won the league and this time we have two points, which is disappointing, but we knew it was not going to be easy.

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“We lost some important players such as Assan Ceesay and Ousmane Doumbia. I’m confident we will start to get better and start winning games in the league as well.”

Between 6,000 and 7,000 fans are expected to attend the match at Kybunpark, with just over 1,000 of those expected to be from Edinburgh. Foda insisted money for reaching the Europa groups is not his main driving force for this tie.

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“International competitions have important financial aspects. We already reached that goal because we will be playing in the Europa Conference League,” he said.

“We would love to play in the Europa League and that’s the goal but I focus on what is on the pitch. It’s not one of the topics but I know it’s important for the team financially.”

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Zurich will be without former Hearts winger Donis Avdijaj through injury. Defenders Lindrit Kamberi and Marc Hornschuh are both suspended.

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