Hibs handed modicum of hope for Aston Villa trip in bid to restore pride after Easter Road mauling
Losing 5-0 at Easter Road in the first leg of the Europa Conference League play-off tie, the Hibs players followed that up with a 3-2 defeat to Livingston – their third loss in their opening three Premiership fixtures – leaving them grounded at the foot of the Scottish top tier and hunting for a new manager as Lee Johnson paid the price for their slow start.
But now, as they head into the second leg of their head-to-head, Villa boss Unai Emery has delivered some squad news to lift Leith spirits.
Unable to fill his bench as his men still carved out victory over Burnley at the weekend – he named just eight of the permitted nine subs, with two of them goalkeepers – he has revealed that his selection headache has not eased since.
Tyrone Mings, Emi Buendia, Philippe Coutinho, Jacob Ramsey, Alex Moreno and Tim Iroegbunam are all out, while the injured Emi Martinez and Leander Dendoncker are doubts and Nicolo Zaniolo is ineligible. Which means he will have to turn to the club’s U-23 squad to plug the gaps.
That should be enough to offer Hibs a modicum of hope, especially as Martin Boyle believes the Scottish team are capable of much better than they have been showcasing. With pride at stake, they just need to prove it by delivering a performance under interim boss David Gray that will allow them to eat into that lopsided scoreline or, at the very least, prevent it from becoming even more emphatic.
“It is going to be really difficult, they are a top side who are in tremendous form at the moment and we have been a bit inconsistent,” the Australian winger told HibsTV. “We know we can produce more than we did last week, it will be a great occasion for the fans and a great experience for us, so we have to enjoy but at the same time keep our full focus on the game.
“These are the occasions you want to play in – this is why we work hard during this season and these are the tournaments you strive to get into.”
But he acknowledged that recent results and their consequences have not helped spirits.
“It has been quite a tough week in all honesty. As a squad we have to stick together, Dave has come in behind the scenes and is doing what he can to get us best prepared for the next few games. We are all fully behind him and his ideas on what he wants to implement whether that is in the short-term or longer term.
“Unfortunately, I have been in this position before – it is not nice to see people losing their jobs but as players, we need to stand up and take responsibility for that.
“The first few games in Europe have been good for us and we have managed to get to this point. This fixture is a big challenge, but the fans will enjoy the occasion and hopefully we can be brave on the ball and showcase what we can do.”
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