Paul Hanlon admits Hibs will have to learn about Euro opponents ahead of step into the unknown
Paul Hanlon has welcomed the excitement that comes with stepping into the unknown after the Uefa Conference League draw paired Hibs with either Mons Calpe, of Gibraltar, or Andorran side Santa Coloma in the second qualifying round.
The 31-year-old defender says he relishes the fresh challenge posed by the early stages of European competition but while he currently knows very little about Hibs’ prospective qualifying opponents, he is certain that by the time either team travel to Easter Road on July 22, the Leith squad will be fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses.
The Hibs players report back for pre-season on June 28, giving them just over three weeks to prepare for the first competitive action of the new term.
“I don’t know a lot about either team other than the draw has now been made and we know that we will play one of those two teams.
“We are not at the stage when we can look forward to playing one of the big names in Europe, although hopefully that will come if we can get through these qualifying rounds, but it is still great to play in different stadiums, see different scenery, play against different players and styles than we are used to. It is something to really embrace and enjoy.
“We all worked really hard throughout last season to finish third, knowing that one of the rewards would be European football so now we have that to look forward to and we want to stay involved at that level for as long as possible. If we can make it to the group stage, that would be great.
“As soon as pre-season starts I’m sure that will be the main focus. We will learn as much as we can about these teams and work on how we can beat them.”
Hibs first European action since they defeated NSI Runavik and Asteras Tripolis in the 2018/19 Europa League qualifiers before losing out to Norwegian side Molde, they will only find out which of the two relative unknowns they will be facing on July 15, a week before they welcome them to Edinburgh. The second leg of the tie will be away, on July 29.