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Neil Lennon warns Hibernian against complacency in Europa League qualifying

By June 20, 2018No Comments

Neil Lennon is refusing to look too far ahead after the draw for the Europa League qualifying rounds.

Hibernian have been drawn against NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands in the first round of qualifying, with a potential meeting with Asteras Tripolis for the winners.

In Lennon’s first games in charge at Easter Road back in 2016, Hibs were knocked out of the second qualifying round by Brondby on penalties.

The manager expects a better showing from his players next season, though, after an impressive return to the Ladbrokes Premiership saw them finish fourth.

“Against Brondby a few years ago it was my first game in charge and we hadn’t had much time to prepare, where as with these matches the squad is more settled and we have the experience of those ties to call upon,” he told the club’s website.

“We’ll be up against a side midway through their league season so they’ll obviously be well prepared, so it’s important we get our work in over the coming weeks to get the fitness levels up and try to get a bit of sharpness for the game.”

Lennon does not expect their progression through to the second round of qualifying to be a simple one, however, and has urged his players to focus when their campaign starts on July 12.

“We can’t afford to be complacent,” he said. “There are always surprises at this time of the season in Europe – lack of sharpness or focus, playing in tough conditions, or a lack of knowledge on the opposition.

“We need to concentrate on the first set of fixtures and get the job done before any thoughts of what comes after.

“The first leg is at home and hopefully we’ll see another good turnout at Easter Road; our attendances last season were excellent and we need more of the same for the game against Runavik.”

Steven Whittaker will go into Europe this season as one of the club’s more experienced players on the continental stage, having reached the UEFA Cup final with Rangers in 2008, and he is keen for a similar run this time round.

He said: “We’d love to go on a run this year and give the fans a few trips away, but to do that we need to get through the first round.

“I don’t know much about the team we’re playing at the moment but I’m sure we’ll be able to do some analysis in the build-up to the game.”