Hearts explain why they consulted Celtic and Rangers over training plan for Zurich tie
Physical rather than tactical reasons are behind Hearts’ decision not to train in Switzerland before Thursday’s European tie against FC Zurich.
Manager Robbie Neilson told the Evening News that he consulted Celtic and Rangers about their recent European experiences before choosing to forego the traditional stadium training session 24 hours before the match.
Instead, Hearts will train at Riccarton on Wednesday morning and then fly to St Gallen to face the Swiss champions in the Europa League play-off, first leg.
Zurich therefore won’t be able to spy on their session but Neilson stressed the change was more to help players rest rather than to gain any tactical advantage.
“I spoke to a couple of guys at the Old Firm teams about their experiences of these European games,” he explained. “Previously, what has always been done is that you would fly over, train at the stadium and do media.
“Nowadays you have a lot of media to do so the manager and a couple of players can miss the start of training sometimes. The team is training about eight o’clock at night having travelled all day. Then they get showered, they aren’t getting dinner till half past ten and maybe not getting to sleep until half past 12 or one o’clock.
“We felt we wanted to train here first and then travel. We will fly over, get to the stadium, do the media and have a walk around. Then we can go to bed because the players will have eaten beforehand. It’s more a physical preparation than tactical.”
Hearts must change their mindset slightly for a more possession-based European tie after two wins and a draw from their opening three Scottish Premiership matches.
“It’s a different game, it’s more like playing against Celtic or Rangers,” said Neilson. “We need to be tactically set up and look at where the threat is. I enjoy coaching against these teams because it’s different and you can set your team up. All eyes were on Sunday’s game against Dundee United but now they shift to Zurich.
“The analysts have been looking at them, as have my assistants Gordon Forrest and Lee McCulloch. I’ve been trying to focus more on Dundee United but now we are watching Zurich’s games to get ourselves ready.”