Why Aston Villa clash is causing Hibs boss problems ahead of cup tie after Luzern heroics

Manager Lee Johnson looks on during the second leg of Hibs' Europa Conference League third qualifying round tie against LuzernManager Lee Johnson looks on during the second leg of Hibs' Europa Conference League third qualifying round tie against Luzern
Manager Lee Johnson looks on during the second leg of Hibs' Europa Conference League third qualifying round tie against Luzern
Hibs boss Lee Johnson fears the first leg of his side’s Europa Conference League play-off against Aston Villa could be brought forward 24 hours – which will cause problems for his team selection ahead of Sunday’s Viaplay Cup meeting with Raith Rovers.

Goals from Élie Youan and Martin Boyle gave the Capital club a 2-2 draw against Luzern in Switzerland and a 5-3 aggregate victory after a 3-1 success in the first leg, setting up a reunion with former Easter Road midfielder John McGinn but before the English Premier League side make the trip north, Hibs have to negotiate a potentially sticky cup meeting with the Championship outfit.

Speaking to BBC Scotland in Switzerland, Johnson said: "The return of John McGinn will obviously be one for the fans but what we’re focused on right now is getting through to the next round of the cup. It will be a big ask again physically, particularly now that the Aston Villa game could be brought forward a day, which is a little bit frustrating in my eyes because it means I can’t fully pick the team I want going into Sunday.”

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The Easter Road side’s exploits in Europe have been somewhat overshadowed by back-to-back league defeats at the hands of St Mirren and Motherwell, prompting criticism from supporters and punters alike, but Johnson felt the draw proved that progress is being made, despite the domestic blips.

He continued: “Over the two legs the boys have been absolute trojans in terms of physical output. Luzern are a top side with really good ball manipulators and it wasn’t great for the heartstrings when we conceded to go 2-1 down, and I just thank Martin for keeping me alive with that goal. It was really important.

“We took a bit of stick over the last two league games and rightly so because we haven’t produced but what the fans know is, over the course of the season plus the cup games, we’re going to dig in and we’ll be okay. This performance absolutely proves that.”

Johnson had words of praise for the travelling fans, who numbered more than 1,000 in the Swissporarena, and vowed the side would ‘go again’ in a bid to reach the group stages, although they face a mammoth task against the side managed by Unai Emery – a four-time winner of the Europa League with Sevilla and Valencia.

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"I was talking to the club doctor, who has been here for about 20 years, and he said never has there been a result as big as this and I think that sums it up. You can beat the lower-end teams [in Europe] but this is a completely different level and it shows we’re building something here,” he added.

"Élie produced two bits of quality but I’m very, very happy with all of them, they’ve worked their socks off. We were always going to have to soak up an element of pressure. We didn’t sit back early and that’s what got us the goal, and counter-attack opportunities were always going to be our thing in this game, particularly with the speed we’ve got. Games like this are a stretch for us so to compete over two legs and to be as successful as we have been, the lads deserve so much credit.”

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