Hibs defender Tim Clancy admits his side will have to try to overcome a lack of match fitness when they embark on their European campaign three weeks tomorrow.
The Easter Road side will face either Swedish side Malmo or Irish League outfit Drogheda in the Europa League second qualifying round, with the two-legged tie – to be played on July 18 and July 25 – representing Hibs’ first competitive action since the Scottish Cup final at the end of May.
By contrast, Malmo’s season is already in full swing, with the Allsvenskan campaign kicking off back in April. After 13 games, Rikard Norling’s side, who will be hot favourites to be lining up against Hibs next month, sit third, just two points behind leaders IFK Goteborg.
The Irish League is even further down the line, with Drogheda having played 17 games since their season began in March. By the time Hibs play the first leg, all they will have under their belts will be less than four weeks’ training plus friendlies against Dumbarton (this Saturday), a Gibraltar Select, Nottingham Forest and Raith Rovers.
Clancy knows it is not ideal from a Hibs perspective. “I’d imagine we’ll be facing Malmo as they come to the table with a lot of European experience,” said the Irish right-back. “Both the Irish and Swedish leagues play summer football, so their players will be fully fit and right up to speed in time for Europe.
“I just hope that superior fitness won’t be a telling factor when we finally get to playing the tie. We know we’ll have to be professional and prepare ourselves thoroughly.
“We want to make it right through to the group stage.”