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Hearts ready to turn tables on Sparta - Pressley


HEARTS captain Steven Pressley today proclaimed his colleagues ready to undertake mission impossible in the UEFA Cup after yesterday's inspiring victory at Pittodrie.

The Tynecastle squad fly out to Prague on Wednesday morning carrying a 2-0 deficit ahead of Thursday's second leg against Sparta, however Pressley and his team-mates have been reinvigorated by three successive away wins against Motherwell, Alloa and Aberdeen since losing at home to the Czechs.

The skipper, buoyed by a renewed sense of belief, insists Sparta will now encounter a totally different Hearts side to the one that capitulated so limply in the Murrayfield first leg as the visitors seek to plunder the Toyota Arena and make amends for defeat in Edinburgh 11 days ago.

"Yesterday's result gives us a lot of confidence," said Pressley of the 3-1 triumph in the north-east. "I don't think anybody, apart from ourselves, gives us a real chance of progressing past Sparta. But if we get an early away goal the tie changes completely.

"The first time we faced Sparta it was on the back of a disappointing result against St Mirren. But things change quickly in football and since losing to Sparta we had three consecutive wins. We're going out there with the belief that we can cause an upset."

Hearts have reported a clean bill of health for Christos Karipidis and Mirsad Beslija ahead of the trip to Prague. Greek defender Karipidis injured his knee at Alloa last week but has sustained no serious damage and is back training, as is Beslija after his suspected dislocated jaw was given the all-clear.

Sparta enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 triumph at home to Ceske Budejovice yesterday in the Czech Gambrinus Liga. Two goals from Mauro Lustrinelli sandwiched a Libor Dosek strike at home. However, Ivanauskas was in similarly upbeat mood to Pressley, praising his players for their patience before the deadlock was broken at Pittodrie.

"Everyone knows how strong Aberdeen are at home and the first half was big, big pressure for us," admitted the Lithuanian. "We had to stay calm, wait for our chance and be very disciplined. We also had Craig Gordon who made two or three big saves for us.

"I said at half-time it could be similar in the second half and that every free-kick and corner would be important. That is how we scored our first goal. For me, the discipline and team-work was very important because that is what brought us the win. I was very happy with the second half because we played very well and passed the ball. That is our game and we deserved the win."

Ivanauskas was perplexed by the first yellow card shown to Mauricio Pinilla for rock-a-by-baby celebrations after scoring Hearts' second goal. The caution eventually resulted in a late dismissal for the Chilean striker when he was spotted throwing the ball away by referee Stuart Dougal and was again booked.

However, another impressive display by Pinilla contented his head coach. "Mauricio is missing now for our next [league] game and he is a big miss. He is getting better every day," said Ivanauskas. "I am angry that he got himself a second yellow card and I spoke with him after the game.

"We need to be very careful about goal celebrations."

Meanwhile, Hearts have been drawn against Hibs at Easter Road in the fourth round of the CIS Cup on November 7/8. It will be the first time the clubs have met in the competition for 50 years.

Taken from the Scotsman

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