Hibernian learn possible Europa Conference League opponents

Hibernian have been drawn against either Mons Calpe Sports Club or FC Santa Coloma in the second qualifying round of the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League.

The eagerly-anticipated draw took place at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland, this afternoon, and we've been handed a first leg at home on Thursday, July 22, before the return leg the following week on Thursday, July 29.

Mons Calpe, from Gibraltar, and FC Santa Coloma, from Andorra, will play their first qualifying round tie over two legs on July 8 and 15, and by then we'll know who will be coming to Easter Road the week after.

It's the Hibees' first taste of European football since 2018/19, when they saw off NSI Runavik and Greek side Asteras Tripolis in Europa League qualifiers before going out to Norwegian outfit Molde.

The Hibs faithful travelled to the Faroe Islands during our last European foray, watching a 12-5 aggregate win over NSI Runavik in the Europa League.

While not much is known about our potential opponents at this stage, Hibernian Sporting Director Graeme Mathie believes the club will be able to do its homework ahead of the ties both home and away.

“We are lucky in that the draw allowed us to gain good information from Scottish Clubs who have played in Gibraltar recently - our Head of Medical Nathan Ring has also been to Andorra recently as Head Physio with England U21 so we have key information on hotels, training venues and logistics," he told the website.

"Pre-COVID, we would look to send a delegation to check these aspects directly in addition to sending scouts to watch the matches but for a variety of reasons that’s unlikely to be feasible at this time.

"Our match preparation will reflect our process for league matches.

"Euan Fotheringham is First Team Analyst and he will be able to access video footage of both opponents to pull together a detailed document for Jack and the coaching staff so whilst we may not have scouts attending live matches, the information we will gain prior to the game will be on par with our domestic league matches.

"We are also being well supported by our travel partners Consilium Sports who have already sourced an aircraft and suitable airports for both venues.

"We’re looking forward to the start of our European campaign and hope we can have a good number of supporters in the stadium for the first leg at Easter Road.”

A potential trip to Gibraltar would not be a bad outcome for Hibs this summer, and that’s exactly what would be on the cards if Mons Calpe can see off FC Santa Coloma in the first qualifying round.

They were only founded eight years ago after Gibraltar was admitted into UEFA, and earned promotion into the Gibraltar National League Premier Division back in 2015.

Mons Calpe play at the 2,000-capacity Victoria Stadium and are managed by former Uruguay international defender Cesar Vega.

As such, their team is substantially made up of players from the likes of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, as well as home grown talent from Gibraltar itself.

FC Santa Coloma qualified for the Europa Conference League after finishing second in Andorra’s top tier last year, although it remains the country’s most successful club side having won the title 13 times.

As such, they have Champions League qualifying round experience – albeit they have never made it beyond the second qualifying round.

Having said that, they have competed well against European regulars over the years and have come up against the likes of Maccabi Tel Aviv, Alashkert, Valur and Astana in recent times.

A penalty shootout loss in the Europa League preliminary round at the hands of Iskra Danilovgrad ended their European adventure last year, but they will fancy their chances of making history at Mons Calpe’s expense in the first qualifying round of this year’s Europa Conference League.

The idea behind the Europa Conference League is to give more clubs a taste of European football, particularly sides from countries that struggle to qualify for the other two UEFA competitions - the Champions League and the Europa League.

To qualify for the Europa Conference League group stages, which guarantees European football until the start of December at least, Hibs will have to come through the second qualifying round on July 22 and 29, the third qualifying round on August 5 and 12, and then a play-off on August 19 and 26.

Stay tuned to our social media channels and our website for more details about arrangements for our second qualifying round fixtures.

All you need to know about UEFA's new European club competition can be found here.