Hibs in Europe: The latest ahead of the Europa Conference League draw
Amid all the excitement (and subsequent disappointment so far) in Euro 2020, it is easy to forget that Europe’s newest club competition is getting under way in the background.
Hibs’ third-place finish in the Scottish Premiership secured the club entry into the second qualifying round; six games away from the new tournamnet’s group stages.
The Easter Road side is seeded for the draw, which takes place on Wednesday, June 16 at 12,30pm UK time, meaning they will avoid a horror draw.
A total of 108 teams are involved in this round; split into two “paths”. Fifteen of the 16 losing teams from the first qualifying round of the Champions League will drop into the ECL as seeded teams while three losers from the Champions League preliminary round enter as unseeded teams in the Champions Path.
The remaining 90 teams – 57 2QR entrants plus 33 1QR winners – comprise the main path.
Isn't the draw regionalised?
It doesn’t look like it – the draw for the first qualifying round was separated into groups but there didn’t seem to be much geographical tinkering given that two Northern Irish teams (Glentoran and Larne) were paired with Welsh opposition (TNS and Bala Town) while a third, Coleraine, face a trip to Bosnia to take on FK Velez.
Who do Hibs want to avoid?
Just because it’s the third-tier European competition doesn’t mean there aren’t some nasty teams in the mix. Servette of Switzerland finished three points off second in the Challenge League last term and have former Arsenal and Manchester City left-back Gael Clichy on their books as well as former Ross County striker Alex Schalk.
Aris Thessaloniki of Greece out-performed AEK Athens, PAOK, and Panathinaikos during the regular season and will pose a stern test. Three of the seven in-season player of the month awards were won by an Aris player and among their players are former Marseille and Benfica striker Kostas Mitroglou and ex-Leicester and Atalanta defender Yohan Benalouane.
Hibs will also want to avoid meeting a team that is already in action – so essentially any of the Nordic teams such as Vålerenga of Norway or Swedish trio Hammarby, BK Häcken, and IF Elfsborg.
On top of that, lengthy journeys to Kazakhstan (Tobol; Shakhter Karagandy) or Azerbaijan (Sumgayit; Keşla) are probably best avoided.
Who would be an ideal opponent?
Hibs should have enough about them to beat any of the teams with a co-efficient of 3.000 or lower. For reference, 2017 Europa League opponents NSÍ Runavík have a co-efficient of 3.000 (Hibs’ is 6.675) and the teams falling into that category include clubs from Malta, San Marino, Gibraltar, and the Baltic states.
Are fans allowed in?
While arrangements concerning fans are still to be confirmed, the fact that there are spectators at the Euro 2020 matches and there were supporters at last season’s Europa League final suggests that the matches at least won’t be played behind closed doors. As for the away leg, a lot depends on the situation on travelling – and where the opponents are based.
Great; what's next?
Look out your atlas or globe, block off 30-45 minutes tomorrow from 12.30pm and cross your fingers for a winnable tie.