Hibs in Europe: Who could Hibees face in Europa Conference League if they beat Santa Coloma?
Hibs will today find out their potential opponents in the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League ahead of their competition debut on Thursday night against FC Santa Coloma of Andorra.
With the draw for the third round of qualifying due to take place at 1pm UK time today, the Easter Road side’s possible opposition has been whittled down to a select few.
Santa Coloma defeated Mons Calpe of Gibraltar in the first qualifying round and will be aiming to cause an upset against the Capital club, with Hibs considered favourites in the tie.
Should Hibs see off the Andorrans they could face trips to the Netherlands, Belgium, Croatia, or Portugal…
Gżira United or HNK Rijeka
Maltese outfit Gżira United were founded in 1947. Nicknamed the Maroons, they have been involved in Europe just four times including this year’s Europa Conference League, for which they qualified after finishing third in the Maltese Premier League last year.
In 1973/74 they lost 9-0 on aggregate to SK Brann of Norway after qualifying for the Cup Winners’ Cup but caused an upset in the 2019/20 Europa League losing 2-0 to Hajduk Split in Croatia but winning the second 3-1 and qualifying on away goals before losing to Ventspils of Latvia in the second qualifying round.
Gżira defeated FC Santa Coloma’s league rivals Sant Julià on penalties in the first qualifying round after a 1-1 aggregate result.
HNK Rijeka also finished third, in the Prva HNL, and are seasoned competitors in continental competition having played in 20 UEFA competitions since 1962/63.
They lost 5-2 to Aberdeen on aggregate in the 2015/16 Europa League before exacting revenge four years later when they beat the Dons 4-0 on aggregate.
Rijeka have reached the group stages of the Europa League on four occasions, most recently last year when they competed alongside Napoli, AZ, and Real Sociedad. They finished bottom after recording a single win over AZ, and a draw with Real Sociedad, losing the other four matches.
F.C. Paços de Ferreira
The Porto-based club finished fifth in last season’s Portuguese top flight to coincide with their fifth involvement in Europe in their history and first since 2013/14 when they finished third in Europa League Group E behind Fiorentina and Dnipro, but ahead of Pandurii Târgu Jiu.
They have only ever won one European game; a 1-0 win at home to Zimbru Chișinău in the qualifying rounds of the 2009/19 Europa League.
Paços were managed by former Hearts boss Paulo Sergio between May 2008 and October 2009. Their current manager is Jorge Simão, now in his second spell at the club.
He has coached in Belgium and Saudi Arabia as well as his native Portugal.
KAA Gent or Vålerenga Fotball
Belgian KAA Gent are seasoned European campaigners, having played 97 matches in UEFA competitions since the 1964/65 season. They have improved in recent years, reaching the round of 16 in the 2015/16 Champions League after finishing second in a group with Lyon, Zenit St Petersburg, and Lyon, and reached the same stage in the Europa League the following season where they were eliminated by league rivals KRC Genk.
Last season they lost in the play-off round in Champions League qualifying, losing 5-1 on aggregate to Dynamo Kyiv before finishing fourth in Europa League Group L behind Hoffenheim, Red Star Belgrade, and Slovan Liberec, losing all six matches.
They play Oslo-based Vålerenga, who have played 52 European matches since 1964/65 winning just 12.
Their best performance came in the 1998/99 Cup Winners’ Cup when they reached the quarter-finals before losing 6-2 on aggregate to Chelsea, after seeing off Rapid București and Beşiktaş in the first two rounds.
Enga currently lie in fifth place in the Eliteserien with five wins and six draws from 14 games so far this season.
The club used to play in green kits before acquiring a set of blue and red kits from the Norwegian State Railways in 1914, which have been their main colours ever since.
FC Drita or Feyenoord
Drita of Kosovo have made just 12 appearances in Europe, making their debut in 2018/19 when they defeated FC Santa Coloma and Lincoln Red Imps in the preliminary rounds of the Champions League before falling to Malmo in the first qualifying round. They were then beaten by F91 Dudelange after dropping into the Europa League qualifiers.
They continued their success against Andorran clubs with a 2-1 win over Inter d’Escaldes in the 2020/21 preliminary round of the Champions League but Linfield were awarded a 3-0 win in the final round after two Drita players tested positive for Covid-19.
They saw of Sileks of North Macedonia in the Europa League second qualifying round before losing to Legia Warsaw. This year they defeated FK Dečić of Montenegro to set up a tie with Feyenoord.
Feyenoord need little introduction for Hibs fans, the Eredivisie club having signed Ofir Marciano during the summer and made more than 250 appearances in Europe since 1972/73.
They have won the Europa League on two occasions, during its previous branding as the UEFA Cup, in 1973/74 and again in 2001/02.
De Stadionclub has also won the Champions League on one occasion, defeating Celtic in the 1969/70 final under its previous guise as the European Cup.
They have faced off against Aberdeen, Hearts, Rangers, and St Mirren as well as the Hoops in Europe and played Hibs in a mid-season friendly in 1985.
Feyenoord finished fifth in last season's Dutch top flight, qualifying for the Europa Conference League by beating Utrecht in the European Competition Play-offs final following a semi-final success over Sparta Rotterdam.
They have just appointed a new manager in Arne Slot, who had a 55.17 win percentage during his previous spell as manager with AZ between July 2019 and December 2020.