The Hearts boss praised Italian football ahead of the European clash TT News

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Rather than take any encouragement from Fiorentina’s home struggles, Hearts manager Robbie Nielsen instead made a point of promoting the overall strength of Italian football ahead of Thursday’s crucial Europa Conference League clash at Tynecastle.

The visitors have made a brilliant start in Serie A and are 11th with nine points from eight matches.

Vincenzo Italiano’s side have also won just one of their last ten games in all competitions, while scoring has also become an issue.

Andy Halliday speaks to the media ahead of Thursday’s clash Picture – Darren Johnstone

All that lends anticipation levels to a game in Gorgi that could no doubt be decisive in the race for second place in Group A.

Fiorentina were already held to a 1-1 draw at home by Riga FS and runaway group leaders Istanbul Basaksehir, Hearts, were beaten courtesy of victory in Latvia in their last European outing, now find themselves two points clear of La Scores go away. Viola after three games.

Nielsen, however, believes Fiorentina are much better than their current league position suggests, and insists that Serie A leaders Napoli have recently beaten Liverpool, Rangers and Ajax in the Champions League – who he 6 on Tuesday night. Defeated by -1 – indicates that football in that country is in poor health.

“I think Napoli’s other results and what they saw against Rangers earlier show that they are a top team but there are many top teams in the Italian league,” said Nielsen, whose Rangers side Was defeated 4-0. Saturday and are also struggling for speed.

“We’ve seen a lot of Fiorentina’s Serie A games and they’re very tight. A goal here or there.

“When they played Riga at home they were dominant and could have probably won 4 or 5-0, ended up drawing.

“I believe Istanbul will run away with the group because they are a top team.

“Yes, they have had a difficult start to the season but they will probably look at us and say the same thing.

“Those are the two teams that will have this opportunity to open their season tomorrow night.”

The game is the start of a double header against Fiorentina, the return clash in Florence next week.

Asked if Hearts had to avoid defeat this evening to have any chance of reaching the knock-out stages of the competition, Nielsen added: “No, I don’t think so. We’re already three points clear. are sitting in a good position and we still have many games left.

“This is a game we are looking forward to. We want to get three points but we understand that it will be a very difficult game.

“It’s a massive game for the football club. A hugely popular Serie A team coming to Tynecastle under lights for European football is a huge deal for us.

“We know we have to bring our best game and hopefully Fiorentina won’t bring them. Then it gives us a chance.

“For any Hearts fans who have paid little attention to Italian football since the early 1990s when Channel 4 screened Hearts games, Nielsen insists it has evolved a lot. .

“I’ve been watching their games and they’re very impressive in the press,” he added.

“Italian football has changed a lot over the years.

“It’s gone from Catenaccio, sitting inside and defending to real all-out pressure and aggression. It’s really exciting to watch. “

Hearts midfielder Andy Halliday’s knowledge of Italian culture has been enhanced after holidaying in the country over the summer.

“I actually went to Florence on my holiday in the summer so I know it’s a beautiful city,” said the former Rangers player.

“It will be a great opportunity for a lot of our players to go and play in a stadium that is so historic.

“I’ve been to a few places in Italy on holiday, Florence was always where I wanted to go because I heard it was so beautiful.

“I did a little tour, I went to Rome, Florence and Bologna for two nights. Great food, I think that’s the main thing! “

Asked by an Italian journalist if he knew that Florence and Edinburgh were twins, Halliday replied: “I didn’t know that. I better not say who I think is the better of the twins because the locals in Edinburgh might not be too happy!”

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