London Hearts Supporters Club

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Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Peter Sippel
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Valdas: Ref's ok


VALDAS IVANAUSKAS has given his resounding approval to UEFA's appointment of the strict German referee Peter Sippel for tomorrow's European return leg with Sparta Prague.

Hearts jetted out to the Czech Republic this morning looking to overturn a 2-0 UEFA Cup deficit against Michal Bilek's side, and head coach Ivanauskas is still mindful of his side's elimination from the Champions League qualifying rounds when Russian referee Yuri Baskakov ruthlessly dismissed Julien Brellier and Neil McCann in Athens.

The Lithuanian believes a strong refereeing performance is essential in Prague if Hearts are not to have their efforts undermined. He will also demand unwavering self-discipline from his players after Mauricio Pinilla became the sixth Hearts player this season to be issued with a red card when he was sent off at Pittodrie on Sunday.

Sippel refereed Ivanauskas during his playing days with Hamburg and the Tynecastle coach is confident that the German will not be easily influenced tomorrow night.

"I know Sippel and he is a good appointment," said Ivanauskas. "This referee is very serious and very solid, he likes a hard game. I am happy that he will be in charge. He is an experienced referee and a good official who has been on the FIFA list for a long time. There is no question that he will be strong enough.

"For a while referees were a problem for us but now we must play our own game. If we are ready for the hard fight we have a big chance."

Assisting Sippel will be his compatriots Peter Henes and Walter Hofmann, and completing a German quartet is fourth official Michael Kempter. But Ivanauskas has also pointed out the need for his team to police themselves and reduce the number of suspensions recently incurred by the club.

He said: "We need to be very careful because before every game we don't have our strongest team. Every week someone is suspended. This is not good for the team and not good for the club, so we must be very careful with our discipline."

Czech striker Michal Pospisil travelled with the Hearts squad but is not yet fit enough to participate in the match, having only recently resumed training after a complex leg injury.

Greek defender Takis Fyssas will also be absent due to a back complaint and his compatriot Christos Karipidis wasn't fit enough to travel. Striker Edgaras Jankauskas and midfielder Andy Driver also miss out.

The absence of Neil McCann is also a big blow for Hearts after it transpired his sending off for a two-footed tackle against AEK Athens earned him a two-game ban - not just the normal automatic one-game suspension.

"It has been a very difficult time but the team gave a positive reaction after a negative game against Sparta Prague at Murrayfield," said Ivanauskas.

"In the second half against Aberdeen they showed how important team work can be. If every player gives 100 per cent on the pitch we can win every game. We have to be ready to do that on the pitch each time we play. The situation at the club is now better but we need the same confidence and team work against Sparta.

"Our last two goals at Aberdeen were important. The breakaways were perfect with a number of players involved, and I was also happy with the [positional] discipline of the team."

Sparta have reportedly sold only 11,000 tickets for tomorrow night's match, with 2500 allocated to travelling supporters.

• HEARTS' reserve side drew 2-2 with St Mirren at Love Street yesterday with goals from Hjalmar Thorarinsson and Andrius Velicka.

Taken from the Scotsman

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