FC Zurich v Hearts
Live on BBC
Back on the big stage
Hearts make their long-awaited return to European football with the club back on the big stage for the first time since 2016. That brief appearance six years ago saw the Jambos embarrassed by little-known Maltese club Birkirkara. Fans demand their team performs better this time.
This has been picked up by terrestrial television with the fixture played in St Gallen due to a concert at FC Zurich's stadium. The Scots will want to avoid a heavy defeat and ensure there's still all to play for in the return leg played at Tynecastle next week.
Tough start for FC Zurich
FC Zurich knows there were tougher teams they could have pulled from the hat and, judging by their opponent's lack of experience and uninspiring past performances in Europe, they'll fancy their chances of going through. To give themselves the best chance of progressing, FC Zurich must be strong at home, aiming to put down a marker and take an aggregate lead to the Scottish capital.
FC Zurich won the Swedish Super League last season but hasn't started this campaign too well, failing to win any of their opening five games. They are already off the pace set by current league leaders Young Boys, and with this game played at a 'neutral' venue, it may dilute their advantage a little. However, they'll be more familiar with St Gallen's stadium than their opponents.
Jambos must stay focused
Hearts know that if they get past FC Zurich, they could draw some blockbuster ties in the next round, including Manchester United, in what would be a mouth-watering battle of Britain. However, they can't afford to look past Thursday's test, knowing they have no right to get ahead of themselves or expect to beat a Swiss champion, even one playing poorly.
The visitors sit third in the Scottish Premiership after two wins and a draw in their opening three games of the new season. The capital city club opened with a hard-fought 2-1 home win over Ross County before being held to a 1-1 draw by rivals Hibs in the Edinburgh Derby. Although the Hibees needed a goal deep into injury time to snatch a point. They warmed up for this trip with a stunning 4-1 win over Dundee Utd on Sunday, netting inside 60 seconds.
Visitors have a chance
Hearts have a poor recent record in Europe but travel to Switzerland with confidence following their strong start to the season and the problems suffered by their opponents. Anything less than a heavy defeat will have the Scots an advantage for the next leg at Tynecastle.
FC Zurich is available to back for a home win at 1.875/6 on the Betfair Exchange with victory for Hearts trading at 4.47/2. Fancy the draw? We do and are more than happy with the 3.7511/4 about a level finish, a result that will suit Robbie Neilson's side.
Both teams have scored in each of Hearts' three Premiership outings, and that's also true of their hosts. Back both teams to score at 1.814/5 or add over 2.5 goals to your multiples at 1.9110/11.