Hibs could face an uphill task in Greece against Europa League opponents Asteras Tripolis next week if they don’t take a strong lead into the second-leg.
Neil Lennon’s men welcome the Greeks to Easter Road on Thursday evening in the second round qualifying tie having already played two competitive games. Their opponents have only played friendlies in the build-up to the fixture.
With the away leg coming second Hibs will know they give themselves the best chance of progressing by recording a confident win in Leith.
Asteras are not regarded as the biggest team in Tripoli, that honour goes to Panarkadikos, who enjoy the support of the wider community. However, in Greek football terms the club are one of the most organised and best run thanks to the support of Giannis Kaimenakis and Dimitris Mpakos.
The duo were interested in investing in a team and opted against Panarkadikos due to the club’s unstable position, despite the desire of many football fans in the city. Their investment saw Asteras rise through the leagues into the top tier.
The club’s respectable facilities and their ability to pay wages on time has marked them out as an attractive prospect to players, with a number of promising talents in their ranks.
As they rose through the league their home record became the envy of all, losing only 16 of their 107 league games at their Theodoros Kolokotronis Stadium over the past seven years.
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Losing four home league fixtures in each of the last two campaigns has been a relative disappointment, considering only one game was lost across the 2013/2014 and 2014/2105 seasons.
They have, however, taken points off the country’s giants, such as Olympiakos, Panathinaikos, AEK Athens and Paok Salonika, while in the Europa League only Tottenham Hotspur and Schalke have emerged victorious from their home ground.
Their success is not down to an intimidating atmosphere with the 7,000 capacity Theodoros Kolokotronis rarely full, the club only slowly winning the support of locals. However, the players are transformed in home comforts, use to the small ground.
There are similarities to HIbs’ rivals Hearts. Manager Savvas Pantelidis likes quick transitions from defence to attack and he is set to trust the players who helped the club qualify for Europe last season, utilising the pace of Georgios Kyriakopoulos and Nikos Kaltsas.
As ever in European competition home advantage will likely prove to be crucial.
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