Hearts adopt a gameplan to attack 'aggressive' Fiorentina
Hearts hope to exploit Fiorentina’s high defensive line with an attack-minded gameplan for Thursday’s Europa Conference League tie.
The Italians arrive in Edinburgh with just one win in their last ten matches in both Serie A and Europe. Hearts feel Tynecastle Park’s tight environs can make life difficult having studied Fiorentina’s tactics under head coach Vincenzo Italiano.
He largely favours a 4-3-3 formation with an attacking press in the final third. Centre-backs Luca Ranieri and Lucas Martinez Quarta push the defence as high up the pitch as possible, often leaving gaps in behind.
Robbie Neilson, the Hearts manager, is preparing his team to take advantage. A win for the hosts would put them firmly in control of second place in Group A of the Conference League.
“We have started to watch them,” Neilson told the Evening News. “Our analyst has done all his work and we know they are a very, very good team. Technically, they play a very high and aggressive line. Their centre-halves squeeze the game massively, one of them going all the way in [to midfield].
“There is a lot of space in behind them as a result. Our decision will be what we do here. Tynecastle, under the lights, on a Thursday night, we have to have a go. We need to have energy, pace and look to take the game to them. On the tight pitch here, we want to go after it and bring that positivity back again.”
Neilson has several decisions to make regarding his starting line-up. Defender Craig Halkett's fitness will be a factor given he has played just 29 minutes of football in the last seven weeks due to injury. He was not risked at the weekend as Hearts lost 4-0 to Rangers at Tynecastle.
“We've got options, that's for sure,” said Neilson. “One of the good things about Saturday was that we managed to get game time for some of the boys. Whether it be the full match, 45 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever, we got a bit of game time so the lads are fresh.
“The only ones who didn't get on the pitch were Nathaniel Atkinson – who played when he was away with Australia – plus Toby Sibbick and Gary Mackay-Steven. They are fine and will do a bit of extra work but everyone else has been playing.”