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Heart of Midlothian head coach Steven Naismith recently confirmed his preference to play in the Europa League ahead of the Conference League.

"As players and coaches, you want to be involved in the biggest tournament you can be," he said. "For us, that's the Europa League. If we're in that, then that's brilliant. No matter what happens, we have the opportunity to get in there."

To provide some context of the standard of the Europa League. The confirmed entrants so far include Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Roma, Lazio, Porto and Lyon.

READ MORE: Hearts in Europe: Finances, opponents, and why Conference League could be best

For Hearts to be in a position to face those sides they have to come through a two-legged tie to enter the newly formatted League Phase of UEFA's secondary competition.

Two years ago the team were in a decent position to achieve group-stage Europa League football when they brought back a 2-1 defeat in Switzerland against FC Zurich. Hearts were in the ascendancy at Tynecastle Park before Jorge Grant's red card. They would lose 3-1 on aggregate and drop into the Conference League.

Hearts Standard: Hearts will be aiming to ensure there is no repeat of the Zurich loss 12 months ago agaisnt

This time around the possible opponents in the play-off round are of a higher calibre with Hearts to be unseeded due to their low coefficient (they will take Scotland's country coefficient of 7.21 because it is higher than their own at 6.5).

Scotland's Coefficient provided an updated list of the 12 potential teams they could be drawn against: Ajax, Braga, LASK, Molde, Viktoria Plzen, Ludogorets, FC Midtjylland, Partizan Belgrade, Sparta Prague, Sheriff Tiraspol, Malmo and APOEL Nicosia.

LASK are the only one of those 12 teams that are confirmed. Six of the teams predicted to enter the play-off round will drop in after losing a Champions League third-round qualifier (Partizan, Ludogorets, Midtjylland, Sparta Prague, APOEL, Malmo) with five progressing from the third qualifying round of the Europa League. 

It should be noted that the 11 teams who enter via Europa League qualifying or from dropping down from the Champions League could change.

Read more

As things stand, according to Scotland's Coefficient, Hearts best chances of progression from the list of projected teams would be to pitted against Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova or APOEL Nicosia in the draw which takes place on August 5.

Sheriff finished second in their league, failing to win the Moldovan Super Liga for the first time since 2015. APOEL won their 29th Cypriot title after being crowned champions thanks to their superior head-to-head record against AEK Larnaca after finishing level on points.

Should Hearts progress there is every chance they would be the team with the lowest coefficient in the Europa League league phase. They would play eight games against eight different opponents, two of those would be against teams from the same pot that Hearts would be placed in.

On the flipside, with six games in the Conference League guaranteed should Hearts lose in the Europa League play-off, to be played on August 22 and 29, fans may view a draw with Ajax as the best of both worlds. They would get to a big-name opponent but would likely drop into Europe's third competition where it's expected they would be more competitive.