By Gary Fulcher.
Liverpool face Heart of Midlothian at Tynecastle (19.45 kick off UK time) in a Europa League Play-off 1st leg tie on Thursday evening. Surprisingly it will mark the first ever competitive meeting between the two clubs.
At stake for the winners is entry into the Europa League group stage, where teams like Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Bayer Leverkusen and Lyon already await, while sides such as Inter Milan, Lazio, Athletic Bilbao, Marseille and PSV hope to join them via the play-offs. While the Europa League is clearly no match for the prestige, wealth and exposure that comes with the Champions League, it still boasts some of Europe’s biggest names and offers a good opportunity for some players and managers to gain valuable European experience.
Hearts have been eliminated at the play-off stage of the Europa League in two of the last three seasons. In 2009/10, Dinamo Zagreb killed the tie off in the first leg securing a 4-0 victory at home although Hearts did recover some pride with a 2-0 victory at Tynecastle in the 2nd leg. 2011/12 produced a similar theme, with Tottenham killing the tie off after the first leg, winning 5-0 at Tynecastle and a 0-0 draw in the second leg at White Hart Lane sealed the Edinburgh side’s exit.
Liverpool’s Europa League record (including qualifying matches):
- P: 97 W: 54 D: 25 L: 18 F: 150 A: 67 GD: +83
Although there have been no competitive matches between Liverpool and Hearts prior to Thursday’s clash, there have been six friendly encounters between the two sides with the last meeting occurring in February 1929 at Anfield, which Hearts won 3-2. The other five friendlies were played between 1897 and 1899 – two at Anfield, three at Tynecastle – with Hearts winning four of those games.
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