Hearts handed Infonet test in Europa League – but told they must play first leg at Tynecastle



Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists his side have been handed a ‘good draw’ after being paired with Estonian outfit Infonet in the Europa League.

But after initially welcoming the news that the Gorgie club would be at home for the first qualifying round second leg, UEFA ruled that next Thursday’s first leg must now take place at Tynecastle.

Football’s Europan governing body acted after realising that Levadia Tallinn and JK Nomme Kalju are also scheduled to play their respective Europa League ties in the Estonian capital on June 30.

robbieneilsonAfter initially urging their fans to refrain from making travel arrangements after it became apparent that it was not feasible to play three separate games in Tallinn on the same evening, Hearts then confirmed at 4pm yesterday that the first leg had been switch to Edinburgh.

A Hearts statement read: “UEFA have just advised the club that its Europa League first round, first leg fixture against FC Infonet has been switched and will now be played at Tynecastle on June 30th.

“The return fixture in Tallinn will now be played on July 7th.

“As soon as the club was alerted to a potential clash of fixtures in Tallinn, an article was immediately posted online alerting supporters to the issue. The club then had to await a final decision from UEFA.

“The decision to switch the fixture rests solely with UEFA and is completely out of the club’s hands.”

Infonet finished fourth in their domestic top-flight last season and are currently one point off the summit following 17 games in Meistriliiga this term.

Even though Infonet will have the advantage of being up to match-fitness, Neilson is hopeful of successfully negotiating the first qualifying round tie.

Bosnian outfit NK Siroki Brijeg, who Hearts beat 3-0 on aggregate in a Champions League qualifier in 2006, or Birkirkara await the winners in the next round.

Neilson, who has taken his squad to St Andrews for a pre-season training camp, said: “It’s a good draw. The boys are ready, it will be a difficult test but one that we’re very much looking forward to.

“We’re getting to work on preparation straight away. Our video analyst is already working on getting some footage in so we’ll be able to study them.”

Neilson, who welcomed the players back to training last week, added: “We’re at our training base in St Andrews now and the facilities here are excellent.

“We’ll be able to prepare properly and the boys are looking in great shape, they’ve responded really well since coming back to training.”

The second leg clash, meanwhile, looks set to be switched to the Estonian national stadium, with Infonet’s Lasnamae KJH stadium not being able to accommodate more than 1,000 fans.

The Le Coq arena, which is also the home of Celtic’s potential Champions League opponents Flora Tallinn, has a 10,000 capacity.

Infonet technical director Dmitri Skiperski said: “We will play at the Estonian national stadium as that is much bigger. It’s a nice place for the Hearts fans to visit.”