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Bruce pays tribute to his squad

As Hull City prepare for their penultimate Premier League game of the season at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, manager Steve Bruce is demanding an improvement on Saturday's showing in the 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa - a performance he described as their worst of the campaign so far.

But Bruce has praised his squad after weekend results elsewhere ensured the Tigers' Premier League safety AND gave them a place in Europe next season.

Following their FA Cup semi-final victory against Sheffield United last month, Hull's place in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League is guaranteed. Victory in the final against Arsenal at Wembley would mean they'd go straight through to the group stage.

Hull City will play in Europe

Steve Bruce has led Hull City into Europe. Credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Hull City will play European football next season.

The Tigers' qualification for the Europa League as FA Cup finalists was confirmed by Manchester City's 3-2 victory at Everton on Saturday evening.

That meant Hull's Wembley opponents Arsenal will finish fourth in the Premier League and qualify for the Champions League, thereby guaranteeing City a maiden adventure in Europe next season - whatever the result of the cup final.

However victory at Wembley on May 17 would see The Tigers go into the Europa League group stages in September, whereas entering as FA Cup runners-up would mean beginning the competition in the third qualifying round in July and early August.

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Bruce: Home games are huge

Hull City will be looking to build on their impressive recent form when they welcome Newcastle to the KC.

The Tigers followed up last weekend's 4-0 victory at Cardiff last weekend with this 2-1 win over Brighton in the FA Cup on Monday.

But manager Steve Bruce says there's still plenty to play for:

Bruce's Champion's League headache

Hull manager Steve Bruce has hit out at the "ridiculous" UEFA regulations that have led their FA Cup fifth-round replay with Brighton to be scheduled little more than 48 hours after this weekend's league matches.

Bruce isn't happy about the date for the replay with Brighton Credit: Press Association

Leonardo Ulloa's quality first-half effort put the Seagulls on course for their first quarter-final since 1986, only for Yannick Sagbo to level five minutes from time.

There were no more goals despite a frantic ending to the 1-1 draw, meaning the FA Cup tie will be decided in a replay at the KC Stadium next Monday due to UEFA regulations.

Those rules have angered Bruce, with Hull having to first travel to Cardiff for an important Premier League clash on Saturday afternoon.

"I find that ridiculous, I have to tell you," the City boss said. "Surely we could play on the same night as the Champions League, you would have thought.

Hull City's Yannick Sagbo (left) scores the equalizer Credit: Press Association

"I think it is a UEFA rule, which reads nobody plays on the same night as the Champions League. We'll have to take it as it is and deal with it as it comes.

"It is quite a bizarre one, isn't it? For them to say to the FA that we can't play the same night as they are playing the Champions League.

"I don't think there will be many tuning out of Barcelona against Manchester City to tune into Hull versus Brighton, no disrespect.

"But there you have it, they think it's going to clash. Is it going to be a real problem for them? I somehow doubt it."

Brighton counterpart Oscar Garcia echoed those sentiments after the match, with Wigan heading to the Amex Stadium before the trip to Hull.

"I don't think it is good for anybody to play two games in three days, but it is what we have to do and we will do it," the Brighton manager said.

Bruce says the replay won't do his side any favours Credit: Press Association

"Of course the travelling will not go in our favour. Now we have to start focusing on Wigan to try and win.

"For me, they have the best squad in the Championship, can play with three different starting line-ups and be fighting for the promotion places. We have to be focused on the next game.

"Of course it is not the best scenario for us, but the competition is like this."

Bruce: Fight to stay in league will go to the wire

Hull manager Steve Bruce believes the battle to stay in the Barclays Premier League may not be resolved until the last day of the season.

Press Association

Victory for the Tigers against Southampton on Tuesday night would have taken them 10th, while their eventual 1-0 defeat meant they ended the night just three points above the relegation zone.

With so many sides bunched so tightly together, unpredictable results now a weekly occurrence and half of the division treating relegation as a realistic possibility, Bruce is not alone in looking over his shoulder.

Steve Harper will be hoping to take his chance to impress Credit: Press Association

Hull take a break from league duties on Monday night when they travel to Brighton in the fifth round of the FA Cup, with veteran goalkeeper Steve Harper hoping for one more chance to stake his claim.

The former Newcastle man has impressed when standing in for Allan McGregor this term, often in the cup competitions but also during the Scot's three-game suspension which expired after the Southampton game.

McGregor is likely to retain Bruce's faith, but Harper has at least made it a tough call.

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