Brondby performance ‘will inspire Hibs in Europa League campaign’

David Gray scores for Hibs against Brondby in 2016. Pic: SNS
David Gray scores for Hibs against Brondby in 2016. Pic: SNS
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Martin Boyle feels Hibs can use memories of their impressive display against Brøndby two years ago to inspire them as they embark on their latest Europa League adventure in three weeks’ time.

The Easter Road side, who are seeded for the first qualifying round draw in Switzerland tomorrow, learned last night that they will kick off with a trip to either Iceland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Faroe Isles, Wales or San Marino after UEFA revealed the identity of the seven teams they could be pitted against.

Hibs’ possible opponents are Levadia Tallinn (Estonia), IBV Vestmannaeyjar (Iceland), Kups Kuopio (Finland), Liepaja (Latvia), NSI Runavik (Faroe Isles) or the winner of the preliminary round tie between Tre Fiori (San Marino) and Bala Town (Wales).

Neil Lennon’s team will also find out their potential second qualifying round opponents tomorrow, although they are set to be unseeded for that draw, so could be paired with Sevilla, Besiktas, Burnley, Atalanta, Sparta Prague, Steaua Bucharest or RB Leipzig, among others. Hibs will have to overcome four two-legged ties if they are to make the lucrative Europa League group stage, but Boyle feels their last European foray, when they lost on penalties to Danish side Brøndby after a 1-1 aggregate draw in July 2016, will stand them in good stead.

“I played both games against Brøndby two years ago and that was my first taste of European football – it was a great experience,” the forward told the Evening News. “We had a good support over there and I thought we deserved more than what we got. Once you get a taste of it, you want more so we’ll be relishing it whoever we get drawn against.

“The fact we did so well against Brøndby gives us confidence that we can go on a wee run this time. I feel like we’ve pushed on quite bit in the two years since then. We’ve won the Championship and then finished fourth in the Premiership, so hopefully we can push on even further in Europe this year.”

Boyle is optimistic about his chances of being fit for Hibs’ opening European match on Thursday 12 July. The attacker missed the last game of last season against Rangers with a hamstring injury sustained in the 2-1 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle six weeks ago and has been busy working on his recovery at East Mains recently. “I came back early for training and I’m taking it day by day,” Boyle explained. “I’m back jogging and the physio is happy with my progress. You can’t rush back from a hamstring injury, but I’m working hard and I’m happy with how it’s going. I can’t put an exact timescale on it, but fingers crossed I’ll be fine for the European game.”