Hibernians and Sirens are bracing themselves for a difficult start their Europa League commitments when the two Maltese Premier League clubs visit FC Vaduz, of Liechtenstein and Bulgarian giants CSKA Sofia this evening (kick-offs: 19.00).
A meeting with a side from a small European country like Liechtenstein might give the impression that Hibernians’ task main not be insurmountable but in reality FC Vaduz are set to be very tough opponents.
This is because the team led by former international Mario Frick operates on a professional basis and plays its domestic football in the Swiss second division as the Liechtenstein federation stopped hosting its own championship.
Last season, FC Vaduz have won promotion to the Swiss Super League after defeating FC Thun in a play-off while in Europe they have gone as far as reaching the third qualifying round of the Europa League, the last occasion being last season when they were eliminated by Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.
“We are practically facing a top-division side from Switzerland,” Hibs coach Stefano Sanderra told the Times of Malta when describing the strengths of Vaduz.
“They are a top-quality team led by a very good coach Mario Frick, who I remember him playing in the Italian Serie A.
“On paper our chances of qualification look very slim but in football anything can happen we will surely give everything on the pitch and hopefully that will be enough.”
Asked to open up more on today’s opponents, Sanderra said: “FC Vaduz are a team who play offensive football and boast some excellent forwards. In fact, they have managed to score in almost every match they played in.
“Apart from being very fast, they are also a physical team and honestly they have very little weak points. It’s going to be hard as we are also playing on their home pitch.
“It’s vital that we are tactically disciplined and play with a lot of heart. I expect the team to battle hard to try and stay in contention for qualification throughout the 90 minutes.”
Sanderra will be without Malta defender Ferdinando Apap for today’s clash as he must serve a one-match ban.
The Italian said that the fact that his players are still not 100 per cent physically prepared is also a concern.
“We have worked hard during the last weeks to ensure we prepare well for this match,” Sanderra said.
“Unfortunately, we have some players who are still short of their best physical fitness such as Leandro Almeida, Rundell Winchester and Wilkson. Added to that we will be without Ferdinando Apap, one of our most in-form players in pre-season, who is suspended.
“We are not at our best condition but Hibernians players always play with a lot of heart and courage, that is our trait, and hopefully that will help us to get the result we are looking for.”