Neilson anticipates 'brilliant' night when Hearts face Fiorentina

Neilson says his squad will benefit from being involved in European tests.

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson excited to face Fiorentina in Europa Conference League SNS Group

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson is delighted with his side’s Conference League draw and highlighted the matches against Fiorentina as those he’s most looking forward to.

The Italian side, Turkish club Istanbul Basaksehir and Latvians RFS are all in Group A along with Hearts after UEFA drew out the group stage sides on Friday afternoon.

Neilson will now juggle domestic and European football between now and November as his team strives to make the knockout stage of the competition.

The Tynecastle boss knows that will be a tough challenge but is eagerly anticipating the experience.

“I think it’s a great draw,” Neilson told STV. “There’s three great trips for the fans.

“We’ve got two really tough games and a game that we would hope we would take something from as well. I think it’s given us a chance in the group.

“It’s a name that needs no introduction. It’s going to be a fantastic trip over there but also to bring a team of that calibre to Tynecastle, have a full house and play against that calibre of player with the history that they’ve got, it’s going to be a brilliant night.”

Asked if the group offered the right mix of glamour with achievable targets, the manager was under no illusion about the size of the challenge but was looking forward to the experience overall.

“We obviously need to try and progress,” he said. “I think when we looked at the draw there was a couple of teams, and Fiorentina was one of them, that you think it’s going to be a brilliant team to play against.

“With Istanbul, obviously the atmosphere will be unbelievable over there with the fans coming in early. We’ve seen it on the TV and to experience that as a staff, players and fan base will be excellent.

“And obviously there’s a chance to maybe win some games as well back at Tynecastle. I think it’s a great draw for us.”

The Conference League group stage was a consolation after losing out in the Europa League play-off to FC Zurich. Though the disappointment of that defeat was still fresh, Neilson said that the balance of play in the tie was enough to give his players confidence as they embark on the next stage of their European journey.

“I think in periods of the game away from home we did well,” he said. “We were disappointed not to take something out of the game. And last night I thought we dominated for long periods and it shows the players to believe we can compete at that level.

“We can compete against these teams that are big European teams that have a lot of experience.

“For a lot of our guys it was their first experience of European football. The more the play, the more comfortable they get and get used to the way the game is played and develop over time.”

Hearts are looking to strengthen their squad ahead of the European games, with only a week left in the transfer window.

The club are closing in on the signing of signing German midfielder Orestis Kiomourtzoglou. The 24-year-old is currently playing in The Netherlands for Heracles.

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