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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> Tonny Kolbech Poulsen
[D Kuyt 22] ;[B Goor 58] ;[D Kuyt 83]
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Jam Tarts won't be patsies - and Craig kens it


HEARTS boss Craig Levein today insisted that facing Dutch giants Feyenoord in the UEFA Cup tonight will be the biggest challenge his players have faced.

The Jambos take on Ruud Gullit’s outfit in the intimidating De Kuip in Rotterdam with the odds stacked against the Gorgie side taking anything from the Group A opener.

Levein has enjoyed an impressive European record since taking over nearly four years ago, with just one defeat in six matches. Hearts have played Zeljeznicar, Bordeaux and most recently Braga over the past 12 months, with the 2-0 defeat from the French cracks in Edinburgh last year the only setback.

The Tynecastle side were written off in the last round in Portugal only to upset the form book to dump Braga out of the competition and qualify for the lucrative group stages.

They have been widely tipped to struggle in the "group of death" alongside Schalke, Basel, Ferencvaros and Feyenoord but Levein is confident his team will again give a good account of themselves against superior opposition.

"Going forward, Feyenoord are a top-class side and have two of the best strikers in Holland just now in Kalou and Kuijt," he said.

"They were very impressive on Sunday when I saw them. Castelen is a real threat wide on the right. He is very quick and on top of his game right now. He’s a young lad but already in the Dutch national side and we will have to try to keep him quiet.

"The Japanese midfielder Ono is another who has impressed so there are four players we really need to shut down and do our best to stop them from playing. We are not kidding anyone on that we are across here looking to stand toe to toe with Feyenoord and trade blows. That is just not going to happen. We have a game plan and that involves trying to stop them playing.

"If we can do that and take advantage of set pieces and such like then we believe that we have a chance."

He added: "Feyenoord are a top side, top of the Dutch league just now. But the biggest thing is we wanted to be here. We are not here to be patsies to anybody.

"We are here to work extremely hard and to do everyone proud who has travelled across here to watch us.

"That will mean trying to do our utmost to get points from this match.

"The players have shown they can do a good job in Europe with their displays against Braga and Bordeaux last year. This will be our toughest test but we want to be involved against a team of Feyenoord’s quality.

"We want to test ourselves against the best, give ourselves experience at this level and give the fans a few days out to enjoy themselves and watch Hearts in the UEFA Cup against one of the top sides in Europe."

Key to Hearts’ shock win over Braga was the work ethic of the side and how the players gelled as a team, and Levein insists that is what will serve his men well at De Kuip this evening.

He said: "Nobody gives us a chance anyway and that is when we are at our best. The reason I go into these games with a fair amount of confidence is because I know what I am going to get from my players.

"Knowing that makes me feel quite confident. I am not saying we are going to win the match or anything like that but what I do know is I have 11 guys out there who are a team.

"They don’t see any one player as any better than anyone else. We will work extremely hard and if their quality can overcome that then so be it.

"We are not worried about the crowd or anything like that. We go to Celtic Park or Ibrox and you have 50,000 fans there so why should we be concerned about going to play in front of 40,000 or so? It’s a tough group and there is no point thinking we may have had this team or that team. We have got to play against the teams in the group and they are all good."

Levein will give a late fitness test to Mark de Vries who is struggling with a poisoned toe, Kevin McKenna standing by for his first start of the season should the Dutchman fail to make it.

"Mark will get antibiotics right up until the last minute and if he doesn’t make it, it will be a big blow for us," he said.

"He scored both our goals in the last round in Braga when he wasn’t fit and Feyenoord aren’t the biggest team at the back.

"They have only one central defender who has any real stature, their backline is fairly small and I am fairly certain he would cause them problems in the air with his strength.

"He has been missing for a big chunk of the season and if he doesn’t make it, then Kevin McKenna would obviously come into the fray.

"He has a similar stature and we need someone like that to cause them problems.

"The more height we have in the side, the better, and we would be looking to capitalise on set pieces in particular.

"It is fairly straight forward and doesn’t take a genius to work out that if Mark doesn’t make it, Kevin will be playing."

Taken from the Scotsman

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