Hearts ready to challenge Liverpool in Europa League

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Hearts defender Andy Webster says his side have learned the lessons of their European failure last season as they prepare to take on English Premier League giants Liverpool in a Europa League qualifier on Thursday.

The Jambos face the Anfield side in the first leg of a Battle of Britain tie at Tynecastle for a place in the group stages of the Europa League.

Hearts have a painful experience of taking on English opposition at the same stage of the Europa League from last year when they were handed a 5-0 mauling by Tottenham Hotspur.

But Webster hopes his team-mates can draw on that experience to claim a better result against Brendan Rodgers’ side.

“The excitement is building ahead of the Liverpool game,” Webster said.

“That’s why we worked so hard last season, to qualify for these big competitions.

“It’s something slightly different from the norm and it’s something to look forward to.

“It’s a massive occasion, playing against a massive club and top-level footballers. It’s going to be a great test.

“We need to take the experience we’ve had into the Liverpool game.

“Spurs were a top-quality side and the tie was pretty much over before it started.

“I think we can draw on that experience and look forward to Thursday night.

“Like any top-level opposition, if you give them time and space then they are going to cut you open.

“Hopefully we can get a bit tighter to them.

“You can’t be gung-ho against this type of opposition or they’ll pick the passes that lead to them scoring.

“We have to approach it with caution but at the same time try to put pressure on them. It’s a fine balancing act.

“With top players, one step in the wrong direction and before you know it, they are in and scoring a goal.

“That’s the difference and that’s why Liverpool and their players play at the top level.”

Rodgers’ reign as Liverpool boss got off to a shocking start at the weekend as they were hammered 3-0 by West Brom, increasing the pressure on his side to get a result on Thursday.

But with players such as Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Pepe Reina and Steven Gerrard in the Liverpool ranks, Webster insists the Hearts players won’t read anything into the result.

“Any time a massive club like that gets beaten, it’s a surprise,” Webster said.

“They’ll be looking for a reaction on Thursday. But whether they win 3-0 or lose 3-0, they still have top players.

“Their squad is full of international players and any time you get beaten you’re looking for a response and any time you win, you’re looking to keep that momentum going.

“For them, it’s a change of competition and a change of scenery.

“For us, it’s a great occasion and although tough, hopefully we can do well.”

The defeat to West Brom on Saturday was Liverpool’s worst opening result for 75 years.

Liverpool captain Gerrard admits he and his team-mates are hurting and vows they’ll take out their frustration on the Jambos in Thursday’s play-off first leg at Tynecastle.

“After a 3-0 defeat everyone is concerned,” Gerrard admitted.

“It’s important I and the other experienced players take responsibility for a poor defeat.

“We have to put it behind us. We have to dust ourselves down and bounce back against Hearts.

“We have to react in the right manner and look to put things right in the coming games.”

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