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Heart of Midlothian vs PAOK betting tips: Europa Conference League play-off round first leg preview, predictions, team news and odds

Heart of Midlothian vs PAOK odds and betting statistics



Heart of Midlothian vs PAOK match preview

Heart of Midlothian are on the cusp of qualifying for the Europa Conference League group stages in back-to-back seasons, but the difficulty level will exponentially increase here.

A week ago, Hearts took on Rosenborg, requiring a second leg comeback having lost 2-1 in Trondheim.

When the Norwegian side broke the deadlock after just six minutes in Edinburgh, the Jambos had a mountain to climb.

Nevertheless, talismanic striker Lawrence Shankland got them back level on the night in no time at all, before Cam Devlin lashed home an aggregate equaliser not long after half time.

Then, just as the game entered stoppage time, Devlin had an optimistic shot from long-range, but a wicked deflected took the ball beyond the goalkeeper, snatching victory for Hearts and sparking wild celebrations.

Domestically, Steven Naismith’s side have four points on the board after two Premiership games before, on Sunday, they smashed Partick Thistle 4-0 in the League Cup, thereby reaching the quarter-finals.

Visitors PAOK meantime have qualified for ten UEFA group stages since their first in 2005, nine coming in the Europa League, before appearing in the Europa Conference League two seasons ago.

Having finished fourth in last season’s Greek Super League, the White-Blacks have already had to come through two ties just to get this far.

First, Răzvan Lucescu’s team dumped out Beitar Jerusalem, courtesy of a 4-1 win in Israel, before seeing off Hajduk Split, with Andrija Živković twice on target in last Thursday’s 3-0 victory at Toumba Stadium.

Both times, PAOK have drawn the first leg 0-0 before cruising through in the return leg, and they’d probably settle for a share of the spoils in Gorgie, ahead of next week’s clash in Thessaloniki.

So, will it be another famous European night at Tynecastle for the Heart of Midlothian faithful?

Heart of Midlothian team news

Steven Naismith and Frankie McAvoy did make a few changes for Sunday’s win over Partick Thistle, but could, more or less, revert to the team that dumped out Rosenborg last Thursday.

Teenager Aidan Denholm was surprisingly given the nod in midfield a week ago, but Calem Nieuwenhof could return here, while Beni Baningime is a doubt, having picked up an injury in Norway.

Zander Clark will continue in goal, as Craig Gordon continues to recover from the broken leg he suffered at Tannadice on Christmas Eve.

Winger Kenneth Vargas made his debut at the weekend, but Lawrence Shankland remains this team’s main goal threat, having scored 32 times since the start of last season.

Liam Boyce could continue as the second-striker; he’s back after suffering an ACL injury a year ago.

Predicted XI (4-4-1-1): Clark; Atkinson, Rowles, Kent, Kingsley; Devlin, Nieuwenhof, Oda, Cochrane; Boyce; Shankland.

PAOK team news

PAOK began the new Greek Super League season by beating Asteras Tripolis 3-0 at the weekend and Răzvan Lucescu made seven changes for that match, with this trip to Scotland’s capital in mind.

William Troost-Ekong, Baba Rahman and Mbwana Ally Samatta all have Premier League expirence, with the latter scoring in the 2020 Carabao Cup Final against Man City at Wembley.

Russian midfielder Magomed Ozdoyev won’t feature, as he’s been denied a visa by the government, which is a big blow, so Theocharis Tsingaras is likely to deputise in midfield.

Winger Andrija Živković is their obvious danger man, having netted four times already this season, taking his tally to 14 goals in major UEFA competitions.

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Kotarski; Kędziora, Troost-Ekong, Koulierakis, Rahman; Tsingaras, Schwab, Taison, Živković, Konstantelias; Samatta.

UEFA Europa Conference League play-off round results & fixtures


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Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

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