For the second consecutive season in a row, Hibernians’ journey in Europe has pitted them against a Latvian opponent.
A lot has been said about last year’s controversial two-legged affair against Riga FC, so it’s best for Hibernians to shut down that memory and focus solely on tomorrow’s opponents – FK RFS.
FK RFS (Futbola klubs RFS) are representing Latvia as the country’s champion after winning their maiden domestic title in 2021. They paired their championship with a success in the domestic cup as well, their second after their 2019 triumph.
The Latvian side, who will host the first leg tomorrow at 6pm, are in the midst of their season having already played 23 games. They trail leaders Valmiera with seven points and are at the back of a 2-0 victory against Tukums away from home.
With seven games left, RFS are still in contention to successfully defend their title and they are also on course for a potential cup success as they are one of the eight teams remaining.
Coached by Viktors Morozs, RFS have never made it past the third qualifying round of a UEFA club competition. In fact, they reached that round only once when they lost 3-2 to Belgium’s Gent on aggregate in last season’s edition.
So far, they have played only one game in Europe when they faced HJK Helsinki in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. A 1-0 defeat and a 2-1 win forced the game into a penalty shoot-out just for Riga to be eliminated from the spot.
Founded only in 2011, RFS are determined to write a new chapter in their club’s history and advance further more in European football.
The Times of Malta spoke to popular Twitter account Latvian footy in English (@LV_footballnews) to discover more about this club.
“The goal of FK RFS is and remains only one – the group phase,” Latvian footy in English told the Times of Malta.
“They can be satisfied with the draw because the only club they wanted to avoid was Lech Poznan.
Latvians already know about Hibernians due to last season’s game, so we know it won’t be an easy walk to the play-off round if they are not at their best against the Maltese side.”
A host of Latvian players compos the club’s squad but they have foreigners who are among their key players.
“Left back Petr Mares (Czech Republic), left winger Emerson (Brazil) and forward Andrei Ilic are among their key players,” Latvian footy in English explained.
“Ilic is the club’s best scorer this season but is yet to recover his form since returning from his injury.”
Ilic, who hails from Serbia, is a 22-year-old forward with 12 goals to his name in 21 appearances.
“Meanwhile, Emerson did well in the competition in both last season and this season, and is expected to be sold to a club in a better league this summer or in winter,” the Latvian account explained.
“Emerson is an excellent winger who will use his dribble and speed to pose threats to his opponents.
In the meantime, left back Mares is one of Latvia’s best crossers and has a great connection with forward Ilic.
In addition, I would say that RFS can be dangerous from set-pieces as the team, in particular also the centre backs, are quite tall and therefore they can be a threat from those situations.”
On the other hand, though, can Hibernians identify a weakness to try and exploit it against RFS?
Latvian footy in English pointed out that although they are quite balanced as a team and might not show evident sign of weaknesses, they might concede a lot on the right-hand side where HJK Helsinki gave them a hard time in the Champions League.
Photo: FK RFS.