Neil Lennon reckons Hibs have a 50/50 chance of rewriting the record books in Molde – but acknowledges the Norwegians represent a step up in class for his charges.
The Hibees are in somewhat unchartered territory this evening as they seek to navigate three successive rounds of European football for the first time in their history, having already seen off NSI Runavik and Asteras Tripolis. A score draw against Molde at the Aker Stadium would be enough to tee up a play-off round date with Zenit St Petersburg or Dinamo Minsk – the latter holding a 4-0 advantage going into tonight’s away leg – following a fraught 0-0 stalemate at Easter Road seven days ago.
By 8pm this evening, Hibs could be one tie away from the promised land of the Europa League group stages. Little wonder, then, it will be the most significant outing of Lennon’s tenure.
“In terms of the magnitude of what is in front of us, this is the biggest game of my Hibs career,” he continued.
“This is European football and we are one game away from the play-offs.
“We have had big games domestically, getting promotion and we had a great season last year in the Premiership. We’ve even had a couple of semi-finals along the way. But, in terms of the profile of Hibs, and where we want to take this team, then tonight’s game is big.”
Molde will have a say in the matter, however. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s men bounced back from a meek showing in Leith to batter Norwegian top-flight leaders Brann 5-1 on Sunday, teeing up what promises to be an altogether different fixture by the waterfront on Norway’s west coast.
“Molde will try to take the game to us and, at this stage of the competition, it’s a big step up in class,” said Lennon.
“We will have to be patient and maybe rely on our goalkeeper to make saves – as theirs did in Edinburgh.
“They are fit, as they are midway through their season, they are technically very good and have pace in their team. Their rotation was excellent in midfield.
“They are a very slick outfit, as I said before the first leg, and nothing changed my mind.
“It’s a very stiff test and we have to be fully on our guard and fully concentrated to the threat they will bring. But are they beatable? Yes they are. I think it’s 50-50.”
Meanwhile, Lennon has confirmed that Adam Bogdan will reclaim his place between the sticks for Hibs tonight after recovering from a hip injury.