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Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Rob Robertson auth-> Nicolai Vollquartz
Aguiar Bruno [P Kapetanos 88] ;[N Liberopoulos 93]
14 of 066 Saulius Mikoliunas 61 E H

Aguiar expected to provide the heartbeat

ROB ROBERTSON August 09 2006

IN THE absence of Paul Hartley, the spotlight will fall on Bruno Aguiar to provide inspiration in the middle of the park when Hearts face Greek side AEK in their final Champions League qualifier tonight.
The performance put in by the defensive midfielder will go a long way to deciding whether the Tynecastle outfit reach their Holy Grail and qualify for the group stages of the competition.
Valdas Ivanuskas is likely to exercise caution when he delivers his team talk this evening, emphasising the need to slow things down as Hearts seek to contain their opponents and Aguiar is the type who can flourish in those conditions.
However, his presence alongside Julien Brellier leaves Hearts short on imagination, and that could be a worry for Ivanauskas.

Aguiar will, therefore, be expected to provide the forward thrust, much as he did against Celtic on Sunday when his superb effort came back off the underside of the bar with Artur Boruc beaten.
The central area will be particularly crucial tonight as Neil McCann on the left and Saulius Mikoliunas are more comfortable going forward than defending so gaps may appear if Aguiar and Brellier are not on top of their game.
Aguiar knows what if feels like to lose a Champions League qualifying match and does not want to suffer the same fate with Hearts.
The former Portuguese Under-21 international was handed his full debut for Benfica by Giovanni Trapattoni in a third-round Champions League qualifying tie against Anderlecht two seasons ago but finished on the losing side.

"It took us a week to get over the defeat," said Aguiar. "I do not want that to happen with Hearts.
"It was so disappointing for me against Anderlecht. We were 1-0 up from the first leg at home and then we lost 3-0 in Belgium. It was terrible but we finished champions of Portugal that season, which helped make up for the disappointment. It is so hard when you get so far then miss out and I hope there is no repeat of that this season."
Aguiar believes Hearts, even without Hartley, have the strength in depth to make it to the group stages. "Last season we finished second in the league and we have good enough players to do even better this season," he said.

"There will be pressure playing in Europe and in the league but it is a good pressure."

The Hearts goalkeeper, Craig Gordon, insists the Tynecastle dressing room is in relaxed mood despite the magnitude of tonight's game.
"The money involved makes it a huge game for a club the size of Hearts but it does not seem like the players are nervous at the moment as everybody is in a good mood and looking forward to the game.
"We have to deal with the pressure. Hearts are wanting to move on to the next level and this is part and parcel of that."

Gordon added that he believes the pressure will be on the visitors given their status as regular competitors on the European stage.
"I have played in big games before and it is good to be involved in them. It is exciting, it is not something I see as a burden or a big pressure on me.
"It is time to go out and show what you can do on the biggest possible stage against the best on the continent. We are going into it as underdogs, because they are the seeded team."

Taken from the Herald

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