Preview: Hearts vs. PAOK – prediction, team news, lineups

Arlo Gibbons


Scottish side Hearts will face Greek outfit PAOK in the first leg of their Europa Conference League playoff tie. Hearts secured a 4-3 aggregate victory over Norwegian side Rosenborg in the third qualifying round to reach this stage. PAOK have made an unbeaten start to the new season, winning three and drawing two of their opening five games. They have also come through two rounds of Europa Conference League qualifiers to reach the playoff round. Hearts will be without Craig Gordon, Craig Halkett, Peter Haring, and Finlay Pollock due to injury, but Beni Baningime is in contention to return. PAOK’s former Aston Villa striker Mbwana Samatta is doubtful after picking up an ankle injury. Both teams are in good form and will be looking for a positive result in the first leg.

Hearts enter the match after an impressive comeback victory against Rosenborg in the previous round. They lost the first leg 2-1 but managed to turn the tie around with goals from Cameron Devlin and Lawrence Shankland. They followed up this victory with a comfortable 4-0 win over Partick Thistle in the Scottish League Cup. Hearts have already qualified for the Europa Conference League group stage last season but must beat PAOK to reach the same stage this term.

On the other hand, PAOK have made a strong start to the new season, winning three and drawing two of their opening five games. They have also progressed through two rounds of Europa Conference League qualifiers, including a 3-0 aggregate victory over Croatian club Hajduk Split. PAOK are aiming to avoid a second successive year without European competition and are looking to qualify for the Europa Conference League for the second time since its launch.

Hearts will be without several key players due to injury, including Craig Gordon and Craig Halkett. However, star striker Lawrence Shankland has made a bright start to the season with four goals in five games and will be leading the line for Hearts. PAOK may be without Mbwana Samatta, who picked up an ankle injury in their last game.

Considering the form of both teams, it is expected to be a closely contested match. However, we predict that Hearts will secure a slender first-leg advantage on home soil. Both teams will be looking to perform well in this tie and gain an advantage going into the second leg. It promises to be an exciting encounter between two sides in good form.


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