Hearts' possible European opponents becomes clearer with UEFA seeding details and dates

The Edinburgh club will face two qualifying rounds.
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While Hearts deliberate over appointing a new manager, UEFA seeding slots are being gobbled up by a number of teams whose league positions were finalised in the last week. Consequently, the Edinburgh club’s list of potential European opponents is now clearer.

Celtic winning the Scottish Cup against Inverness Caledonian Thistle confirmed that Hearts’ fourth-place finish in the Scottish Premiership secured entry to the Europa Conference League third qualifying round. With Celtic in the Champions League as league title winners, third-placed Aberdeen take the Scottish Cup’s European slot – a Europa League play-off berth with parachute into the Conference League group phase in the event of defeat.

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Hearts, therefore, assume a spot in the tournament’s third qualifying round which would have gone to Aberdeen had the cup winners not qualified for the Champions League through league placing. UEFA’s seeding and co-efficient system is never straightforward, but the picture of who the Gorgie side can and cannot meet in Europe is gradually becoming clearer.

Hearts will not be seeded for the draw on July 24 as their co-efficient rating is below the threshold. The two-legged tie due to take place on August 10 and 17. A number of highly-financed and well-supported teams will dominate the seeded list. Among them are the Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, who defeated Dundee United 7-1 on aggregate at the same stage of the competition last August. Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv, Serbian giants Partizan Belgrade, the Austrian side Rapid Vienna and FC Arouca of Portugal are also guaranteed to be in the draw.

The following seeded opponents are among those who could lie in wait for Hearts (** denotes assumed progress from the second qualifying round):

Club Brugge** (Bel), Basel** (Sui), AZ Alkmaar (Ned), Gent** (Bel), Dinamo Kiev (Ukr), Fenerbahce** (Tur), Cluj** (Rom), Partizan Belgrade (Srb), PAOK Salonika** (Gre), Maccabi Tel-Aviv** (Isr), Viktoria Plzen** (Cze), Bodo/Glimt** (Nor), Lech Poznan** (Pol), Rapid Vienna (Aut), Hapoel Beer-Sheva** (Isr), Djurgardens** (Swe), APOEL Nicosia** (Cyp), Besiktas** (Tur), Rijeka** (Cro), FC Arouca (Por), Vitoria Guimaraes** (Por), FCSB** (Rom), Legia Warsaw** (Pol), Rosenborg** (Nor), Spartak Trnava** (Svk), Omonia Nicosia** (Cyp).

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Many of those would provide a daunting task for Hearts and a decidedly awkward early test for whoever is appointed manager. Victory in the Conference League’s third qualifying round would secure progress to the competition’s play-off stage. That would bring another two-legged tie on August 24 and 31 for the right to a coveted spot in the tournament’s group phase.

Hearts will compete in the Europa Conference League qualifying rounds this summer.Hearts will compete in the Europa Conference League qualifying rounds this summer.
Hearts will compete in the Europa Conference League qualifying rounds this summer.

However, defeat in either the third qualifying round or the play-off round would mean outright elimination from European competition for Hearts. The Conference League is ranked as the third of UEFA’s three major club competitions and therefore does not carry the cushion of a consolation place in a lower category tournament.

Last August, Hearts benefited from the cup route when they landed the Europa League play-off tie against FC Zurich. They lost 3-1 on aggregate to the Swiss champions but then dropped into the Conference League groups. They finished third in a four-team section and earned around £5million from matches against Istanbul Basaksehir, Fiorentina and RFS.