Zurich v Hearts: TV channel; kick-off time; team news; form guide; odds

Hearts this week return to European football after a six-year absence with a trip to face Swiss champions FC Zurich in the first leg of the Europa League play-off round on Thursday. Here is all you need to know:

TV channel

Kicking off at 6pm UK time/7pm Swiss time, the match will be screened live on BBC Scotland. The build-up begins at 5.45pm.

Match info

The Europa League trophy. Picture: Alex Grimm/Getty

The match is being played at Kybunpark in St Gallen due to a concert being hosted at Zurich’s home ground. The return leg is due to be played a week later at Tynecastle (kick-off 8pm BST on Thursday, August 25), with the overall winner advancing to the Europa League group stages. The losers will drop into the Europa Conference League group stages.

Team news

Zurich Zurich will be without former Hearts winger Donis Avdijaj through injury. Defenders Lindrit Kamberi and Marc Hornschuh are both suspended. Boss Franco Froda, who took over in the summer has largely kept the 3-4-2-1 shape which his predecessor adopted. He lost a few key players from last season’s title triumph. His best players are Kosovo international centre-back Mirland Kryeziu and Swiss attacking midfielder Antonio Marchesano. Eighteen-year-old Italian striker Wilfried Gnoto is a real threat with his dribbling ability.

Robbie Neilson has suggested that both Alex Cochrane and Craig Halkett will be fit after both took knocks in the Premiership win over Dundee United, but the left-back is probably the more doubtful of the two after clutching his hamstring. Stephen Kingsley’s return is a major boost and he would be an ideal replacement. Neilson has a decision to make on Liam Boyce after a sluggish performance at the weekend and may opt for a third central midfielder to provide his team with a more solid defensive platform.

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Form guide

Zurich are in a state of flux. The Swiss champions were knocked out of the Champions League by Qarabag, before bouncing back in the Europa League third qualifying round by brushing aside Linfield 5-0 on aggregate to book this play-off meeting with Hearts. Domestically, their title defence could hardly have started in worse fashion. They are bottom of the table after five games, picking up just two points from a possible 15 and only scored their first goal on Sunday in the 1-1 draw away at Winterthur with five minutes left. They also lost 2-0 on the opening day against St Gallen at Kybunpark, where the first leg against Hearts is being played.

Hearts were spared from competing in the Premier Sports Cup after qualifying for Europe and have had a solid start to the new league season with two wins and a draw against Capital rivals Hibs at Easter Road. New striker Lawrence Shankland has scored in the last two games and the new signings have integrated well. Robbie Neilson has admitted that performances have been patchy and could have been better, but it usually takes a few competitive games for everything to click and Hearts have done more than enough to win all three Premiership games. They go into this European tie in confident mood.

Match officials

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Bartosz Frankowski from Poland is the man in the middle, supported by his compatriots Marcin Boniek and Jakub Winkler on the line and fourth official Krysztof Jakubik.

Bookies’ odds

Zurich are odds-on across the board and are 5/6 with Coral as the best price. Hearts can be backed at 18/5 with UniBet. The draw is 13/5 with bet365.