Birkirkara v Hearts: Celtic loss is warning for all, says Robbie Neilson

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson
Neilson leads his Hearts players through Edinburgh Airport on their way to Malta
Birkirkara v Hearts, Europa League qualifying, second round, first leg
Venue: Hibernians Stadium, Paola Date: 14 July Kick-off: 19:30
Coverage: Live text on BBC Sport website, updates on BBC Radio Scotland

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson says Celtic's shock defeat to Lincoln Red Imps should be a warning to all Scottish clubs in Europe.

The Scottish champions suffered a 1-0 first leg loss to the semi-professional side from Gibraltar.

"These games are really hard," said Neilson as Hearts travel to Malta to meet Birkirkara in the Europa League.

"We are going to a different environment with a different pitch and the heat will play a big role."

Temperatures are expected to be around 30C at kick-off time on Thursday (19:30 BST) and Neilson is anticipating a tricky encounter.

"They have a lot of European experience and some good players," he told BBC Scotland. "They had a good performance last year against West Ham, who they took to penalties at this stage, so we know it's going to be a tough one for us.

"They play a different style of football because of the heat and that's something we need to take into account."

Hearts were 4-2 winners against Infonet in Tallinn last week
Hearts were 4-2 winners against Infonet in Tallinn last week

Hearts beat Infonet of Estonia in the first qualifying round, coming through 6-3 on aggregate after looking rusty in their 2-1 first leg win at home.

Returning to the Scottish champions' surprise loss, Neilson added: "These games are really hard and when you are going, as Celtic were, to a difficult ground with a difficult surface taking on a team who are playing in their cup final.

"We had that problem against Infonet in the last round but I'm almost certain Celtic will overturn that when they get them to Parkhead for the home leg."

Birkirkara got through with a 3-1 aggregate success against NK Siroki Brijeg, winning the second leg 2-0 at home.

"They sat in and made it very difficult, they are hard to break down and like to play on the counter-attack," said Neilson.

"I think they will be similar against us. You can't have a gung-ho game at 100 miles an hour because of the heat.

"They'll defend and try and get a 1-0 or a 2-0. We'll try to win the game but we have to negate their tactics. We have to be very careful.

"We want to use our strength and pace like we did against Infonet."

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