Naismith excited for potential Europa League place after finishing third

Hearts could be guaranteed Europa League group stage football if results go their way in two major finals.

Steven Naismith is looking forward to leading his side into group stage football on the European stage next season after guaranteeing third place with three games to go.

Hearts secured their position as the “best of the rest” behind Celtic and Rangers last weekend despite defeat to the champions after fourth-placed Kilmarnock also lost at Ibrox.

As it stands they will go into a Europa League play-off and if they lose that then they will take a place in the Conference League groups.

However, certain permutations in this season’s finals could mean they go straight into the Europa League groups without the need for a play-off.

One of them being if Borussia Dortmund beat Real Madrid in the Champions League final and Atalanta win the Europa League over German side Bayer Leverkusen, and both finish in the Europa League spots of their respective domestic divisions.

But Naismith isn’t getting himself too bogged down with stuff outwith his hands and is just looking forward to at least another six European ties next season.

Speaking to the media on Friday he said: “It’s crazy the way it works. I think it’s every year there’s a different route for Scottish teams.

“We’ve got the opportunity with a qualifier no matter what, to get into the Europa League. And that’s ultimately you want to play in the highest competitions you can, against the best teams as you can.

“But listen, no matter what happens, it’s all good, we’ve got group stage European football.

“The boys have experienced it a few years ago, for others it’ll be an opportunity to play on that stage and show what they’ve got.

“I think as you go up a level of team, it’s the small margins that inevitably get punished on, that you might not against a lower level team.

“You can do 90% of your game plan right, but that one moment you slip up you’ll get punished, a higher level you go, that’s simply it.

“But I think we’ve got a squad here that can cause teams problems. So yeah, it’s really exciting. You work all season to get your goals and trying to achieve what you want to set to do. And we’ve done that this season with games to spare, which is nice.”

Hearts take on Dundee this weekend, and despite already securing a place in Europe, Naismith is not ready to take his foot of the gas just yet as he aims to hit the 70-point mark.

They currently sit on 63-points with nine points left to play with game against St Mirren and Rangers coming up after Dundee.

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