Malmo boss Rikard Norling has insisted his players will be able to cope with the highly-charged atmosphere of Easter Road as Hibs fans pay tribute to legend Lawrie Reilly.
Advance ticket sales for the second leg of the Europa League clash broke through the 13,000 barrier as supporters took advantage of a cut-price offer and a crowd of more than 14,000 is expected hoping to see Pat Fenlon’s players overhaul the two-goal deficit incurred in Sweden.
A minute’s applause to mark the death of the last member of the Famous Five will be held before kick-off while the Hibs players will wear black armbands on what is sure to be an emotional night.
Norling revealed he was well aware of Reilly’s death and of the former Scotland striker’s standing within Easter Road. But while promising Malmo will show due respect, he believes his players won’t allow themselves to be distracted from their goal of progressing to the third qualifying round of the competition and a tie with English League Cup holders Swansea City.
He said: “It’s part of playing at the top level, you play against teams that have big fan bases. Hibernian is such a team and we expect a noisy crowd. We enjoy it, that tells us it’s a very important game.
“In Swedish football there are many top-class arenas and a good atmosphere at stadiums. It’s not only Malmo, other teams have good fans. We are used to it.”
Malmo will be backed by fewer than 200 of their own fans tonight but with a week’s break following five games in 15 matches, Norling believes his players are well-prepared for tonight. He said: “We’ve decided what we want to bring to it and I am sure the goals will come if we do our job.”
Although Norling’s players suffered a pre-match blow as arch-rivals Helsingborg knocked them off the top of the Allsvenska by beating Halmstad 1-0, Malmo skipper Jiloan Hamad, who scored the opener in the Swedbank Stadion seven days ago, concurred with his manager’s assessment of his players’ state-of-mind.
The midfielder said: “The whole season has been good. We have lost only two matches and in each game we play we feel stronger and stronger.”