Robbie Neilson's European lessons: Hearts boss reveals plans for squad sit-down during World Cup break

It is only once they have made it to next month’s World Cup winter shutdown that Hearts will allow themselves time to sit back and fully evaluate what they have taken from this season’s European challenge.

Until then the unrelenting schedule precludes luxuries like looking back and picking through the leftovers in search of self-nourishment.

Off the back of Saturday’s much-improved performance against Celtic, Robbie Neilson’s men return to Europa Conference League action but while there is a bigger picture, the Hearts manager and his players are focusing on one aspect of it at a time, well aware that a Fiorentina win over Istanbul Basaksehir in the early kick-off will render their tussle with RFS meaningless in terms of progressing in this year’s tournament. But it will not stymie their opportunity to progress as a side as they soak up all available learning while they can.

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“We are looking at just trying to win the game,” said the Gorgie gaffer. “Obviously it will depend on what happens in the other game where we go from there. But we need to win to give ourselves some sort of chance.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson speaks ahead of his side's UEFA Europa Conference League match against RFS. Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group

Regardless how Fiorentina do in the other Europa Conference League Group A match, there will be plenty for Hearts to play for when they take to the Tynecastle turf on Thursday night.

Victory over RFS in the Skonto Stadium just over a month ago has cemented their status as favourites for the return fixture. That triumph also fortified an injury-hit squad that has struggled to adjust to the heftier demands of combining European football with the normal toils of a Premiership season. The cherry on top was the financial reward which, if they could emulate the win, would render the Latvians million-pound opponents, which has not been lost on the Hearts manager.

“The financial side of it is huge when you go into Europe and that is the case again but ultimately it is about performance first. We have to make sure we perform well, to give ourselves a chance of winning. If we do that then the finances will come for the club.

"Whenever you play at Tynecastle, whether it's a European game, a league game or a cup game, you need to go and try to win it. This is an opportunity to do that. We got a great result over there against RFS and we hope to do the same [on Thursday] night.

“This campaign was always about learning what it is like when you go to these places. But this time we are at Tynecastle and we would expect to win.

“It has been great for everyone involved in these games. It is something we want to do continually and we need to make sure our league form improves so we get the chance to come back again. It has been a great experience and a learning curve for us all.”

But only time will detail exactly what that education includes.

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“To be honest I could sit here and list things all day but we will sit down once the campaign is over, in that World Cup break, and go over it as a group. We will see what we need to do better so the next time we get in we can try to improve again.”

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