Such evenings are far too rare for the supporters and the club. That makes this one all the more special and one that should be absorbed and enjoyed. A revered Serie A side in the Tynecastle spotlight, they have everything to be truly memorable and an occasion that makes those midweek defeats in Perth or hikes in Dingwall worthwhile.
A generation of fans witnessed the crushing 5-1 victory over Lokomotive Leipzig in 1976, overturning a 2-0 first leg defeat. Another saw powerhouse Bayern Munich beaten 1-0 in the first leg of the 1989 UEFA Cup quarter-finals, in an atmosphere widely regarded as the best ever on the old pitch, then Atletico Madrid were beaten four years later.
Stuttgart, Bordeaux and even FC Zurich have all threatened to enter such a disadvantaged list. Braga, which took place at Murrayfield, was different.
A generation of supporters are still waiting to experience their European night, one that will be etched into the fabric of the club for fans still born to know.
The atmosphere of Tynecastle
These same supporters are making a concerted effort to play their part in what could be a famous night.
The sold-out sign has been a common sight at Tynecastle this season, but the atmosphere is one that has been a hot topic among fans after a subdued sensation of back-to-back defeats to İstanbul Başakşehir and Rangers. Discussions have taken place with club officials on how to improve the atmosphere which, in its day, is considered one of the best in Scotland.
UEFA noted in their Europa League review the role the Ibrox factor played in Rangers’ run to the final. Hearts support and Tynecastle Park have the ability to do the same. A din, a bear pit, an intimidating arena where no adversary is respected and no adversary is feared.
“I still believe it works both ways,” manager Robbie Neilson said. “The players have to bring energy to the stadium and the fans bring energy to the pitch.
“In the spotlight of a European game, I think it will work both ways. It will be a great atmosphere. We know we need to bring energy and work rate. I think it will be a great game .”
When it comes to matters on the pitch, there will be respect. But for this energy to be transmitted from the field to the stands, we must not be afraid. Hearts won’t face a team that fits the stuffy, conservative, Catenaccio stereotype of Italian football. Fiorentina, who will wear their modified white jersey rather than their famous purple, are a team that dominates the ball. No Serie A team has more possession on average. Yet only the bottom two have scored less despite their attacking intentions, a key reason for their mid-table position.
“Italian football has changed a lot over the past few years,” Neilson said. “He’s gone from Catenaccio sitting and defending to real pressing and all-out aggression. It’s really exciting to watch.
“We have to respect a Serie A team coming to Tynecastle, but we also have to believe that we can bring the game to them.
“I believe that here, with 20,000 fans behind us in the spotlight, we have to take the game to the opposition. But we also have to be aware of the real quality they have in their squad.”
Fiorentina are the third Serie A side to arrive at Tynecastle Park for a European game after Inter Milan and Bologna, who were the last in 1990.
It marks a further step in “how far we have come as a football club since I have been here”, noted Andy Halliday.
Memories of Serie A
The midfielder, who addressed the assembled media like a gregarious Briton landing on the Italian peninsula with a ‘buongiorno’ welcome, perhaps knows better than anyone what a ‘massive’ opportunity this is. ” for Hearts.
Halliday is a player who constantly delivers insightful insights and analysis, especially as he is a huge fan of Italian football. Like many of his age, he has memories of Channel 4, Gabriel Batistuta, teams, stadiums and strips. It is for this reason that there has been such interest among fans to travel to Florence, to see Hearts at the Stadio Artemio Franchi and why Thursday’s match added prestige and importance.
“I don’t want to disappoint any Fiorentina fan, but it’s always been AC Milan for me,” revealed Halliday, who traveled to Florence this summer.
“The kit, some of the legends they had, that millennium team and the 2010s after that, they had fantastic teams.
“Serie A has always been an amazing league, even now you look at Fiorentina and they are one of the most massive clubs so it will be great to play against them.”
A stimulating but rewarding experience on the European stage are the various challenges, but Halliday can see similarities between Fiorentina and a certain Scottish Premiership side.
“They are a very brave team in possession of the ball, they try to play from the back, they use their defensive midfield to move up the pitch,” he said. they conceded they had balls over and behind.
“I think they play a bit like Celtic in that they press high, play high intensity and I think that works really well for them sometimes. But when you don’t do it right it leaves scars. weaknesses.
“If they leave areas for us to try to expose we will, but we know we will have to play well to get something out of the game.”
Craig Halkett has doubt for Fiorentina games as Hearts provide injury update