Heart of Midlothian

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Latest updates

  1. What did the pundits say?published at 21:33 18 August

    Levein is "hopeful" Hearts can progress despite a first-leg defeatImage source, SNS
    Image caption,

    Ex-Hearts manager Craig Levein is "hopeful" Hearts can progress despite a first-leg defeat

    Former Hearts midfielder Michael Stewart believes his ex-side have nothing to fear as they aim to overturn a one-goal deficit against FC Zurich next Thursday.

    "Looking at the second leg, I'm confident Hearts can progress," Stewart said on BBC Sportscene.

    "If you can get that front four of Liam Boyce, Lawrence Shankland, Alan Forrest and Barrie McKay on from the start, Hearts are a dangerous, dangerous side. I've not seen anything from Zurich that makes me fearful."

    Meanwhile, ex-Hearts manager Craig Levein believes the Tynecastle atmosphere could spook Zurich, but he also feels Robbie Neilson's side need to have more belief in themselves.

    "Tynecastle will be rocking next week," Levein said on BBC Sportsound. "But they'll have to play with more confidence.

    "I think Zurich will get a fright. Tynecastle feels claustrophobic. I'm hopeful."

  2. 'We've given ourselves a chance' - Gordonpublished at 20:52 18 August

    Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon rued a "daft spell", but is positive about his side's hopes of reaching the Europa League groups after the 2-1 first-leg defeat away to FC Zurich.

    "I thought it was a decent performance," he told BBC Scotland. "We gave away a couple of goals in a daft spell but apart from that we felt fairly controlled in what we were trying to do and carried out the game-plan well.

    "We got our goal and were disappointed to lose two but we are well in the game going back to Tynecastle.

    "We have given ourselves a chance. We knew we couldn't win it tonight but we knew we could have given ourselves a mountain to climb and lose it. We are still in the game."

    Craig GordonImage source, SNS
  3. Hearts 'outstanding' in first-leg loss - Neilsonpublished at 20:36 18 August

    After his side's 2-1 defeat to FC Zurich in Switzerland, Hearts boss Robbie Neilson told BBC Scotland: "I thought we were outstanding tonight.

    "We've come to the Swiss champions, who had a magnificent season last season with international players.

    "We've taken the lead and then lost two sloppy goals but we stayed in the game and we've given ourselves a massive opportunity in front of 20,000 loud, noisy Hearts fans next week."

    On Craig Halkett's injury, Neilson added: "He's tweaked his hamstring a wee bit so we'll need to see the next couple of days."

    Robbie NeilsonImage source, SNS
  4. Hearts cause own downfall in Zurich defeatpublished at 20:23 18 August

    Thomas Duncan, BBC Scotland

    Despite being winless in their first five games in the Swiss league, Zurich were always going to pose a greater threat than their form suggested, even playing away from their own ground, which was unavailable due to hosting a concert.

    Even still, after playing solidly in the opening quarter and getting themselves in front, Hearts will be kicking themselves at how easily they let their opponents back into the game.

    The loss of Craig Halkett and the torrential rain did not help, but Nathaniel Atkinson in particular was brutally exposed before being substituted at half-time. And the visitors were too slack in possession, only completing 57% of their passes in Zurich's half before the break.

    Robbie Neilson will still back his squad at what will be a raucous Tynecastle but the loss of Halkett, who emerged on crutches to take his place on the bench for the second half, is a concern in defence and they will need to offer far more of a threat from open play.

  5. Hearts fans - and legend Gary Locke - on tour...published at 17:21 18 August

    Hearts fansImage source, SNS
    Hearts fansImage source, SNS
    Hearts fansImage source, SNS
    Hearts Image source, SNS
  6. Line-up: Hearts name XI to face Zurichpublished at 17:12 18 August

    Hearts: Gordon, Atkinson, Halkett, Rowles, Kingsley, Cochrane, Devlin, Haring, Grant, McKay, Shankland.

    Substitutes: Stewart, Smith, Boyce, Mackay-Steven, Halliday, Forrest, Neilson, Sibbick, Henderson, Smith, Ginnelly.

  7. Celtic & Hearts given cash for Ukraine projectspublished at 16:36 18 August

    Celtic and Hearts are amongst 15 clubs who have received a combined £573,870 from the European Club Association Ukraine Relief Committee.

    ECA chairman Nasser-Al-Khelaifi revealed in March €1m (£840,000) was being set aside for projects to assist displaced children and families during the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

    Between €25,000 (£21,100) and €50,000 (£42,200) has been given to each club, which also include Shakhtar Donetsk and Polish side Legia Warsaw.

  8. Zurich's Goncalves has 'great memories' of 'second club' Heartspublished at 10:22 18 August

    Zurich general manager Jose Goncalves is looking forward to a meeting with his "second club" Hearts in the Europa League play-off round.

    The 36-year-old former defender was at Tynecastle from 2006-10 and played alongside current manager Robbie Neilson as well as captain Craig Gordon.

    “I have great memories," he told BBC Scotland. “When I left Hearts I had tears. I wasn’t ready for that and I never knew I would get that reception. They had a lot of respect for me. It made me feel unbelievable. They are my second club – it’s part of me. They improved me as a player and man."

    Zurich are currently bottom of the Swiss Super League, without a win in their opening five games.

    “Last season was great for us, a lot of players performed at the highest level and we won the league," said Goncalves.

    “We haven’t started the new campaign the way we wanted, but it doesn’t mean anything. There are still a lot of games to go.

    “These matches with Hearts are the most important games for our season now. Both teams are very happy to have at least the Conference League group stage, but everyone wants the biggest prize."

    On the switch of stadium to St Gallen's home 80km away, he said: “It’s a little bit annoying.

    "When you play at home you have your family who live close by and people who go to work and can come straight to the stadium. We feel very sad for them. But we know this stadium well."

    Jose Goncalves has "great memories" of his time at HeartsImage source, SNS
    Image caption,

    Jose Goncalves has "great memories" of his time at Hearts

  9. Neilson on Zurich, Hearts' hopes & key menpublished at 23:07 17 August

    Hearts boss Robbie Neilson spoke to BBC Scotland's Brian McLauchlin in Switzerland on the eve of his side' Europa League play-off first leg with FC Zurich.

    Here are the key lines:

    • Zurich are favourites against Neilson's European "novices".

    • The game being moved to St Gallen's stadium, 80km from Zurich, will help Hearts, whose fans are expected to account for around 1,000 of the 6,000 crowd.

    • An away win is the target, but Hearts must be defensively strong and well organised to bring back a positive result.

    • Goalkeeper Craig Gordon will again be key, while Lawrence Shankland, Liam Boyce and Barrie McKay can win it at the other end.

    • Neilson expects a difficult test despite Zurich's winless start to the Swiss Super League, where they sit bottom.

    • Full squad to choose from other than long-term absentee Beni Baningime.

    • Reaching the group stage would be "the next stage in the journey" after demotion, promotion, and top-three Premiership finish.

  10. Hearts' good spirits require caution in Zurichpublished at 22:02 17 August

    Zurich coach Franco FodaImage source, PA Media
    Image caption,

    Franco Foda has taken over this summer after leaving the Austria national team

    Brian McLauchlin, BBC Scotland in St Gallen

    Hearts fans making their way to Switzerland will undoubtedly arrive in good spirits after a convincing win at the weekend against Dundee United, but they should also travel with an element of caution.

    Although Zurich have been forced to move their home leg of this Europa League play-off to St Gallen, around 80 miles east, the Swiss champions already have beaten Linfield home and away to reach this stage.

    Indeed, it took an extra-time goal from Qarabag to knock them out of the Champions League qualifiers last month.

    They also have goals in their squad, with midfielder Fabian Rohner and Ivan Santini, the experienced Croat striker, already on target this campaign.

    Their manager, Franco Foda, is also vastly experienced and took over in the summer after resigning as head coach of Austria following the failure to lead them to the World Cup - with defeat by Scotland the final straw.

    Foda is desperate for victory over Hearts to relieve the pressure he finds himself under amid Zurich's winless start to the new league campaign.

    Around 800 Hearts fans have so far bought tickets and if the Tynecastle side can secure a decent result to take back to Edinburgh, raising hopes of group-stage football in the Europa League rather than the Conference League, then their trip will have been more than worthwhile.  

  11. Pick your Hearts XI to face Zurichpublished at 18:47 17 August

    The waiting is almost over. On Thursday, Hearts take on FC Zurich in the first leg of their Europa League play-off.

    It's a huge occasion for Robbie Neilson's men as they bid to put one foot in the group stage. Does the manager go for a bold attacking line-up in Switzerland, or play it more cautiously?

    Put yourself in Neilson's shoes and pick your team here.

    hearts selectorImage source, BBC Sport
  12. Zurich v Heart of Midlothian in statisticspublished at 16:27 17 August

    • Zurich won the Swiss title for the 13th time last season and dropped down to the Europa League after losing to Qarabag in the Champions League qualifiers, while Heart of Midlothian qualified by finishing third in the Scottish Premiership.

    • Hearts sit third in this season's Premiership after home wins over Ross County and Dundee United either side of a draw away to city rivals Hibernian.

    • Zurich have only won twice in nine games this season - 2-0 away and 3-0 at home to Northern Irish champions Linfield in the previous qualifying round.

    • Hearts have twice before faced Swiss opposition - losing to Lausanne-Sport in the 1963-64 Fairs Cup and beating Basel in their only appearance in a European group stage, the 2004-05 Uefa Cup.

    • Zurich have faced Scottish opposition five times, losing to Celtic, Dundee and Kilmarnock before beating Rangers and Celtic.

    • This is the first time Zurich have faced Scottish opposition since defeating Celtic 5-3 on aggregate in the Uefa Cup second round in 1998-99.

    • This is Hearts' first appearance in European competition since losing to Maltese side Birkirkara in Europa League qualifying in 2016.

    • Zurich have reached the Europa League group stage four times, and the Champions League and Uefa Cup group pages once each, making the last 32 in their last appearance in 2018-19.

    • The furthest Hearts have progressed in European competition is the Uefa Cup quarter-finals in 1988-99, when they lost to Bayern Munich.

    • Zurich twice reached the European Cup semi-finals - losing to Real Madrid in 1963-64 and Liverpool in 1976-77.

    Birkirkara players celebrate as Hearts' Alim Ozturk is left disappointedImage source, SNS
    Image caption,

    Maltese minnows Birkirkara knocked Hearts out in 2016

  13. Zurich out of tune amid concert blow and poor startpublished at 14:10 17 August

    Fidan Aliti of Zurich and Abdellah Zoubir of QarabagImage source, Getty Images
    Image caption,

    Fidan Aliti (left) was in a Zurich defence that conceded five goals against Qarabag

    Clive Lindsay, BBC Scotland

    Heart of Midlothian return to European competition for the first time in six years and, on paper, should start as underdogs against Swiss champions Zurich in their Europa League play-off.

    But not only have Zurich had to switch the game to St Gallen, 80 kilometres away, due to a concert being held at their own Letzigrund home, but they find themselves struggling at the start of their domestic title defence.

    Zurich have already beaten one British opponent this season - knocking out Northern Irish champions Linfield 5-0 on aggregate in the previous round.

    However, that came after losing their Champions League qualifier 5-4 on aggregate to Qarabag of Azerbaijan and new manager Franco Foda's side are currently bottom of the Swiss Super League after five games following Saturday's 1-1 draw away to Winterthur.

    After winning their domestic title by an impressive 16 points from Basel last season in their single season under Andre Breitenreiter, the German opted to return to the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim and was replaced with compatriot Foda, who had resigned as Austria boss in March after their failure to qualify for the World Cup finals.

    Striker Assan Ceesay, who provided 22 goals and 11 assists last season, also decided to reject a new deal, preferring a move to Lecce in Serie A.

    In has come Ivan Santini from Al-Fateh and the 33-year-old Croat has already scored twice in Europe this season, as has winger Donis Avdijaj, who played three times for Hearts in 2020 before the pandemic struck and who has signed from Swiss Super League rivals Hartberg.

    They are competing for a starting place with Ukraine war refugee Bohdan Vyunnyk, the 20-year-old on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk, and Wilfried Gnonto, who recently became Italy's youngest-ever scorer at the age of 18.

    Like Gnonto, 20-year-old Swiss defender Becir Omeragic has already accumulated four international caps, while centre-backs Fidan Aliti and Karol Mets play for Kosovo and Estonia respectively.

    Former Switzerland, Napoli and Bologna 36-year-old Blerim Dzemaili anchors a midfield that also features Akaki Gogia, who spent two seasons with Brentford.

    Plenty of talent that has yet to come together as a team so far this season as they face a Hearts side unbeaten in their first three games of the Scottish Premiership campaign.

  14. Hearts took Old Firm advice over Zurichpublished at 11:44 16 August

    Heart of Midlothian consulted Celtic and Rangers before choosing to forego the traditional stadium training session 24 hours before their Europa League play-off first leg against Zurich and will instead train at Riccarton on Wednesday morning before flying to St Gallen - a move designed more to help players rest rather than gain any tactical advantage. (Edinburgh Evening News), external

    Midfielder Jorge Grant says he made the switch from Peterborough United to Hearts this summer because you do not get nights like Thursday's Europa League play-off first leg against Zurich while playing in England's League One. (The Scotsman), external

    Read Tuesday's Scottish Gossip in full here.

    Gossip logoImage source, BBC Sport
  15. Hearts boss seeks another attacker - gossippublished at 09:33 15 August

    Heart of Midlothian manager Robbie Neilson hopes to recruit another attacking player but doubts he will be able to get someone in before Thursday's Europa League play-off first leg away to Zurich. (Edinburgh Evening News - subscription required), external

    Neilson says Hearts will need to raise their game against Zurich, despite recording a comfortable 4-1 defeat of Dundee United on Sunday. (Sun), external

    Gossip graphicImage source, BBC Sport
  16. Neilson expects Cochrane recoverypublished at 22:22 14 August

    Hearts defender Alex Cochrane goes off injuredImage source, SNS
    Image caption,

    Hearts defender Alex Cochrane went off injured against Dundee United

    Heart of Midlothian's Robbie Neilson is full of confidence ahead of Thursday's trip to face Zurich in the first leg of their Europa League play-off against a side who lie bottom of the Swiss league after Sunday's 1-1 draw away to Winterthur.

    "They are having a difficult start to the season, but they are still Swiss champions and it's going to be a very difficult game," the manager tells BBC Scotland after his own team's 4-1 win at home to Dundee United.

    "They have a lot international players and we are going to be at our best to get something out the game, but we've got a good group here with some very good players and we believe we can go there and put on a good show."

    Asked about defender Alex Cochrane's withdrawal through injury, Neilson adds: "Alex will be fine for Thursday."

  17. Neilson cites tactical change for ease of win published at 21:12 14 August

    Robbie Neilson was still not totally satisfied with his Heart of Midlothian side, despite their comfortable 4-1 scoreline against Dundee United.

    "I thought we started very well, got our goal in the first minute and then for the next 44 minutes we weren't at the races to be honest," the manager tells BBC Scotland.

    "We didn't get close enough, we were slack in our play and it wasn't until the second half when we showed what we're about.

    "We made a couple of changes tactically at half-time and that allowed us to settle into it."

    Hearts manager Robbie NeilsonImage source, SNS
  18. Hearts show depth, United fragility exposed published at 21:01 14 August

    Josh Ginnelly scores Hearts' fourth goal against Dundee UnitedImage source, SNS
    Image caption,

    Substitute Josh Ginnelly scored Hearts' fourth goal against Dundee United

    Clive Lindsay, BBC Scotland

    With Celtic and Rangers again looking a class above, Hearts are again looking good to be the best of the rest following Sunday's 4-1 win over Dundee United at Tynecastle.

    Although Robbie Neilson insists his squad is still a little light on personnel, they look to have a better strength in depth that should stand them in good stead given they are guaranteed European group stage football even if they drop down to the Conference League.

    The worry for Neilson ahead of Thursday's trip to face Zurich in the first leg of their Europa League play-off is the final moments at Tynecastle that were peppered with Hearts players going down nursing knocks.

    Tynecastle's feelgood factor is in stark contrast to the visitors, who head back to Tayside after conceding 11 goals in two games.

    They have replaced a safe pair of hands - Benjamin Siegrist's form winning a move to Celtic - with Mark Birighitti and the Australian is hardly instilling confidence in a defence that has now started three consecutive halves of football by conceding a goal almost immediately.

    Ross has a big job on his hands to turn around their fortunes after a fourth defeat in a row at Tynecastle.