Andrea Pisanu says that Hibernians are relishing the chance to face Latvia’s RFS for a historical berth in the Play-off Round of the UEFA Conference League.
The Paolites take on the Latvian champions in the third qualifying round, first leg tie at the Daugava Stadium (kick-off: 6pm) and this game holds huge significance for the Malta champions who are hopeful to secure an historic berth in the Play-Off round.
Tuesday’s draw has given Hibernians a favourable draw as they will face the loser of the Europa League tie between Linfield, of Ireland, and FC Zurich, of Switzerland, with the Irish side the likelier opponents.
But Pisanu is only focused on RFS and the Italian coach is expecting a strong physical challenge from their opponents.
“I’m expecting a very entertaining encounter against a very strong side,” Pisanu said.
“RFS are a very strong both from a physical and technical side. They play some nice football so it will be a great challenge for us.
“It will be important for us to try and not be passive in our approach and try and implement our style of play. At this stage of the competition, it’s normal that the level of these matches is much higher and there will be moments where we will have to suffer particularly when they will dominate possession.
“But the most important thing is that when we will have the ball in our feet, we make the most of those moments. I want the players to start well and play with personality and not be afraid of adopting an attacking approach.
“I am sure that they will try and turn the match into a physical battle and we need to be ready to fight back to everything they will throw at us.
“As I always say, we need to make sure that we leave everything on the pitch so that we don’t have any regrets.”
Pisanu is boosted by the return of club skipper Bjorn Kristensen who has now served suspension, but defender Andrei Agius has still a one-match and should return for next week’s second leg.
Hibernians gave Pisanu a good build-up for this match. After sealing qualification against Levadia Tallinn in Estonia the team headed straight to Riga to kickstart their preparations, giving the Italian mentor the chance to be 10 ten days with his players.
“The fact that we have been together for so long has been very important for me,” Pisanu said.
“It was crucial for us to come straight to Riga as it gave us the opportunity of not only to work on our playing philosophy but also to get to know each other better. That is very important for a coach as knowing the character of his players is key to help them improve from every aspect.
“The morale among the players is very high at the moment and we are looking forward to the match.
“I believe that if we can adopt a positive approach we can achieve the result we want.”