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Robbie Neilson says Hearts must adapt to unfamiliar atmosphere in Switzerland

Robbie Neilson does not want a quiet night (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Robbie Neilson does not want a quiet night (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson claims his players will need to adjust to the unfamiliar atmosphere just like opponents Zurich in their Europa League qualifier in Switzerland.

The Swiss champions have moved the first leg of the tie to Kybunpark in St Gallen because their own stadium has been booked for a pop concert.

The 20,000-capacity stadium, which is a 100-mile round trip from Zurich’s home, is expected to be about a third full on Thursday.

Neilson said: “To be honest, I would have preferred a full house. When you come away from home in European football, you want experience, you want big atmospheres.

“We have got players that are used to playing in that. They play at Tynecastle, regularly it’s 20,000 and we have big atmospheres. We go away to Easter Road, Parkhead, Ibrox, and I think the players play better in it.

“So I would have preferred a full house but 6,000 – we just need to deal with it.”

The number of fans travelling from Zurich will not be helped by the home team’s form. They were knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by Qarabag and sit bottom of the Swiss Super League with only one goal and two points from their first five matches.

Neilson is not reading too much into their early-season struggles under newly-appointed manager Franco Foda, whose Austria team played Scotland on several occasions in recent years.

“It’s always difficult to tell,” the Hearts boss said. “We have all been in football long enough. You can have a difficult couple of games and then all of a sudden it goes like that and you start clicking.

“There’s no doubt that they have got real quality in their team, a very experienced manager who I am sure will turn it around.

“We are just hoping he doesn’t turn it around in the next week.”

Neilson insists Hearts have not travelled for a damage-limitation exercise.

“When you play with Hearts, you are expected to win every game,” said Neilson, who has a fully-fit squad other than long-term absentee Beni Baningime.

“Our fans expect us to come here, put a performance on and win the game. If we do that, we go into the Europa League and that’s what we are aiming for.

“It will be the same when we go to Parkhead on Sunday, we go there to try and win, and the following Thursday when we play Zurich again.

“We are not coming here and going ‘let’s try and get a draw, let’s try and just have something to play for at Tynecastle’. We want to try and win the game.”

Foda earlier outlined what he expects from Hearts, saying they play with “a lot of speed and aggressively on the ball”.

“They often play with long balls, but they also have individual quality in their ranks, for example with attacking player Liam Boyce or the wingers,” he added.

“Hearts are a versatile team, who often change the system in the game.

“We need a high level of intensity and aggression in the game off the ball.

“After winning the ball, we want to play forward with a lot of speed. We also want to pull the opponent apart with a high passing speed in order to find space.”