Neil Lennon has warned his players to stay smart and not get caught up in any Greek histrionics in tonight’s Europa League clash with Asteras Tripolis.
The Hibs boss expects the side from the Peloponnese to be not only technically gifted and tactically aware but also streetwise given their extensive experience on this stage.
But Lennon will also urge his team to play their own game as he looks to his senior players to exert their influence on the game, insisting Asteras are “beatable”.
Former Hibs striker Gareth Evans, now an academy coach at the club, watched the Greeks in action as they played three games at their pre-season training base in Poland and, along with video footage of the side which finished fifth in their league last season, the Capital outfit have built up a sizeable dossier on their opponents.
Lennon, however, conceded there’s nothing quite learning at first-hand, saying: “We’ve shown them [the players] what they’re like technically and how they set up. They are a good counter-attacking side and we have to be wary of that.
“You can’t give them the experience, they’ve got to go out and get a feel for it themselves. You give them snippets of information and hopefully they’ll see the picture when they are out there. That’s the biggest challenge. It’s hard to replicate what they’re going to experience just by showing them reams of footage.
“You don’t want to overdo it, you want to concentrate on how you play as well. But they are a good side and their away form in the second half of last season was good. They get into a good shape, make it difficult to break them down and counter-attack well.
“They’ve got some very good individual players but they are beatable, there’s no question about that and we have good players ourselves.”
Agreeing that taking a lead into next week’s second leg would be “beneficial”, Lennon wants to see his players exhibit not only patience but to control their emotions.
Speaking from his own experience of Greek teams, particularly at their own grounds, he said: “There may be some histrionics from the opposition. They can be cute, they can do the dark side of the game quite well. They just have to ignore that. It’s difficult sometimes because they won’t be used to it. Hopefully the players will stay cool.”
Hibs may have a slight advantage as this will be the first competitive outing of the season for Asteras and Lennon said: “We don’t want to be sitting in the house on a Thursday night in a couple of months time saying ‘that could’ve been us”.