Hibs’ Europa foes present calm, confident front

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MALMO boss Rikard Norling has revealed his players will have to “wing it” in tonight’s Europa League clash against Hibs after admitting his knowledge of the Easter Road side is a little sketchy.

Norling dispatched goalkeeping coach Jonnie Fedel to spy on Pat Fenlon’s side in their final warm-up match against Raith Rovers only 24 hours after his players had clinched their place in the second qualifying round by disposing of Irish outfit Drogheda.

But while Malmo are halfway through their season – and top of the Allsvenskan – Hibs have yet to play a competitive match which, Norling conceded, had been a drawback in preparing for tonight’s match.

He said: “There are times when you prepare when you have a lot of information, but we do not have much this time .”

However, flanked by captain Jiloan Hamad and fellow midfielder Markus Halsti, Norling looked relaxed and confident as he spoke ahead of the match, insisting he trusted his both his players and coaching staff to adjust as the game develops.

He said: “We’ve played a lot of games, we are in good momentum in the league and we are looking forward to the match. It’s a little difficult to know what we are going to face since they have been in their pre-season but we have done our preparations.”

Norling was far too street-wise to reflect on who he saw as Hibs’ dangermen, arguing that to do so would help Hibs boss Fenlon gauge just how much he knows of the Capital side, content only to say: “We will see who is going to play as they’ve signed a new striker [Rowan Vine] and re-signed the central midfielder [Kevin Thomson].

Asked if he agreed with his team’s status of being favourites, Norling added: “We love to play football, we have good momentum so nothing else really matters.”

Exuding his manager’s calm confidence Hamad, who scored the goal which effectively knocked Rangers out of the Champions League two years ago, said: “I have sweet memories of Scottish teams and hopefully it continues tonight.”

He did, though, contradict Norling’s assertion that his preparations have been somewhat less than complete, by adding: “Our staff have done a great job with Hibs, we know how to play against them to win so it is up to us to do the job. I think if you don’t know too much about the player you are up against your find out pretty quickly on the pitch and possibly he doesn’t know too much about me. It’s not a problem.”

Ex-skipper out for revenge

He’s waited 33 long years but finally former Malmo skipper Staffan Tappar has a chance for revenge.

Tappar was captain of the Swedish side when, in 1970, they were hammered 6-0 by Hibs at Easter Road in the old Fairs Cities Cup, the forerunner of today’s Europa League, with a performance which caused his club chairman to accuse him and his team-mates of playing “like old ladies”.

Hibs won again in Malmo with a 3-2 scoreline to complete a 9-2 demolition on aggregate.

As he looked forward to the clubs being reunited tonight, Tappar, who is a coach in a Malmo youth academy which has 800 players in training, admitted he hopes the tables are turned – although he doesn’t anticipate by quite the same margin.

He said: “I hope it is a totally different scenario to way back then. We actually won the Swedish championship that year but it was a really tough game in Edinburgh. It was terrible, it was a typical Scottish day, wet and windy, and every time Hibs scored they just seemed to increase the tempo.

“We were rather a good team but we did not have European experience then but we learned and by 1979 we were playing in the European Cup final against Nottingham Forest.

“I remember our chairman Eric Persson telling us afterwards that it was all right, that it was one of those things before ending by saying we’d played like a bunch of old ladies.

“I’m coming across to Edinburgh next Thursday so hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy a bit of revenge – it’s been a long time coming.