Ross Laidlaw set for first Hibs appearance since October in Euro tie
Ross Laidlaw is primed for a first appearance in nine months if first-choice goalkeeper Ofir Marciano is not deemed fit enough to play in Hibs' Europa League opener next month.
The Israeli has receiving treatment on a hand injury he sustained while on international duty at the end of May, and it remains to be seen if he will be ready to return to action when the Edinburgh club begin their continental adventure on Thursday, July 12.
However, the uncertainty surrounding Marciano is slightly offset by the likelihood that back-up goalkeeper Laidlaw will be fit to play in his absence. The former Raith Rovers player has been sidelined since suffering a serious shoulder injury in a training-ground accident in November and hasn’t played since the 4-2 League Cup semi-final defeat by Celtic at Hampden in October. Laidlaw’s injury led to Scott Bain and Cammy Bell being brought in on short-term contracts to provide cover, but both have now moved on.
Laidlaw has now recovered from his injury – which required an operation in December – and returned to full training with the rest of his colleagues on Monday to begin preparations for the first leg of the Europa League first qualifying round tie three weeks tomorrow. The goalkeeper is no stranger to being thrust into the firing line in Europe after making an impressive debut for Hibs’ in their 1-0 win away to Brondby two years ago.
That remains the Easter Road side’s last match in Europe after they subsequently lost on penalties following a 1-1 aggregate draw with the Danes, and they are due to find out their next opponents at lunchtime today when the draw for the first and second qualifying rounds are made in Switzerland. In the first round, Hibs, who are seeded, will face one of seven teams – Levadia Tallinn (Estonia), IBV Vestmannaeyjar (Iceland), Kups Kuopio (Finland), Liepaja (Latvia), NSI Runavik (Faroe Isles) or the winner of the preliminary round tie between Tre Fiori (San Marino) and Bala Town (Wales) – after UEFA put the teams into draw groups.
The draw for the second qualifying round takes place immediately afterwards, but Hibs will be unseeded for that one and face the possibility of a formidable test against the likes of Sevilla, Atalanta, RB Leipzig or Burnley, among others, if they clear the first hurdle.