Hibernian FC manager Tony Mowbray is hoping recent domestic victories against Rangers FC and Celtic FC will inspire his young side to reach the UEFA Cup group stage - 50 years after the Edinburgh club first played European football.
The Easter Road team host FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in Thursday's first-round tie, but even though the Ukrainian visitors are struggling in their league, Mowbray insists his players are the underdogs against a side that reached the last 32 of the competition last time around.
"Last season Dnipro won their group against teams like [Real] Zaragoza, [Club] Brugge [KV] and [FC] Utrecht and therein lies the task for us," Mowbray told uefa.com. "They have a squad packed with Ukrainian internationals who romped away with a [FIFA] World Cup qualifying group that included Denmark, who humbled England recently, and Greece who won the [2004 UEFA] European Championship. So we are under no illusions that it's going to be a tough game."
According to Mowbray, the task facing Hibernian this week is similar to the challenge of confronting the Old Firm clubs in Scotland. The manager is therefore hoping the confidence gained from winning 3-0 at the home of Scottish champions Rangers FC on 27 August, added to a 3-1 victory against Celtic FC at the end of last term, will see them through against Dnipro. "The last couple of times we've played Rangers and Celtic, we've managed to get positive results, so we go into the game hoping to find the form to give Dnipro the same kind of problems," Mowbray said.
French midfielder Guillaume Beuzelin sees the Dnipro tie as an opportunity to steal some of the limelight from city rivals Heart of Midlothian FC, the early pacesetters in the Scottish Premier League. "We hope to take some of the headlines back from Hearts," said the 26-year-old. "Everyone is talking about Hearts but the season is long. If we can go to Rangers and win 3-0, I don't see why it isn't possible for us to progress against the Ukrainians and go further in the UEFA Cup."
This week also marks the 50th anniversary of Hibernian's first foray into continental competition, as they became the first British side to contest the inaugural European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1955/56. The Green and Whites reached the semi-finals, falling to France's Stade de Reims Champagne who subsequently lost the final 4-3 to Real Madrid CF.
Eddie Turnbull - one of the club's 'Famous Five' forward line - and the man who claims the distinction of being the first British player to score in the European Cup, hopes the current crop of Hibernian players can bring more European nights to Easter Road.
"There were people who ridiculed the competition, including the late Celtic chairman Sir Bob Kelly who said the European Cup would never be a success," Turnbull told uefa.com. "But Hibs proved them wrong and Harry Swan [Hibernian's then chairman] showed what a visionary he was. The club have a proud European tradition and hopefully that will continue if Hibs get into the group stage this season."
The achievement of Turnbull and company will be commemorated before Thursday's game with the unfurling of a banner carrying the names of all the continental teams Hibernian have faced over the years. They will hope to add to that list in the campaign ahead.
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