Hearts travel to Florence hoping to make amends for last week’s Europa Conference League defeat at Tynecastle, but they will come up against a side with incentives of their own. Booed off the park when they crumpled to a 4-0 defeat by Lazio, they have spoken about the need to react to that disappointment and find a way to kick-start their season, which has delivered just nine points from their first nine Serie A games.
The Gorgie side are also looking for a blank canvas after a stuttering few weeks in Europe and in the cinch Premiership, losing heavily to Rangers and then dropping points against Kilmarnock to slip down the league standings.
But, if there are some similarities to their current predicaments, the differences are just as stark as thousands of Hearts fans swarm into Tuscany, desperate to snap up tickets that the locals are in no rush to acquire to a match that is likely to be contested in a half empty Artemio Franchi Stadium.
These are fans who have been raised on a diet of Roberto Baggio, Rui Costa, Dunga, Luca Toni and Gabriel Batistuta, where €60 million is paid for players. They expect and they demand and when the club falls short, they let them know.
Hearts fans have the same lack of intolerance when it comes to poor results in Scotland. But losing to a side with Fiorentina’s pedigree is not the same as being ousted from the League Cup by newly-promoted Kilmarnock.
Especially not when the defence has been decimated further – Michael Smith and the suspended Lewis Neilson are the latest to be forced onto the sidelines – and one of their best midfielders and strikers are still rehabilitating from long-term injury.
And, the unifying force that saw the fans push back against adversity to save their club and take ownership; saw them fulminate over demotion and back them as they won promotion and then their place in Europe, that loyalty has seen those same supporters travel in their droves by bus, car, plane and rail to rally round once again.
A city with such a rich artistic background has been painted maroon.
But it is more than just backing their team, it is about drinking in every last drop of the experience (as the Firenze hostelries will testify) while they still can.
Which is why the foreboding mood of the Fiorentina fans who mingle and chat is so different from the party atmosphere of the travelling contingent, who are happy that after so many tough years they are even on the invite list.
They want to see a performance from their team after they succumbed too meekly last week and they have travelled in the hope that their team can pull off a shock and turn the trip into one of those ‘were you there when…’ European nights, but if they lose it won’t be the disaster failing to finish third in the Premiership would be.
After last week, Fiorentina are the side sitting second in Group A, and Neilson knows that the pressure is now on them not to chuck that away.
As someone who has lived with that kind of pressure, as a player and a manager at Hearts, he knows that it could play into his side’s hands if they can keep things tight and give the natives time to get restless.
"We would like to not concede after four minutes like last week,” said Neilson. “We want to stay in the game, try to put some pressure on and create some chances – get a foothold in the game and put a bit of pressure on Fiorentina. It's the same at any big club. You lose a couple of games and there is going to be pressure from fans. We have had it at our place. It's part of football.
Which is why that loss to Lazio could prove more influential than the win at Tynecastle.
“I'll tell you about five minutes into the game [if that’s the case],” Neilson continued. “I watched the game on Monday and it was a disappointing scoreline for them. They actually played very well and got hit on counter-attack four times but it’s no difference for us whether they won or lost.
“If we want to progress, it's a massive game for both teams. Outwith Istanbul, the other three teams in the section are pretty tight. But I'd say this is just as big a game for Fiorentina. The games they have after this are difficult as well.”
The same can be said of Hearts’ upcoming domestic challenges and while this one is being treated as something of a free hit by the Jambos support, it cannot be allowed to distract from the real task, which is finding a way to ensure this European adventure can be repeated and improved on next year and the year after that and the year after that.
“We want to get to that stage and be a big club participating regularly in European football,” added Neilson. “It's a massive learning curve for everyone – players, staff and fans – but we want to continue doing it. It's an honour to represent Scotland in Europe. We need to prepare for European games and then we come back and need to win at Aberdeen. It's an extra workload and extra pressure but it's one we enjoy having.”
That is the difference between the sides and the level of expectation. A Scottish team has not beaten an Italian opponent since Rangers defeated Livorno in 2006, so for Hearts it is all about how they show improvement and how they then recover. But on Thursday evening in Florence is just another chance to celebrate how far they have come.