Johnson: Hibernian not thinking about Aston Villa as focus on Luzern  

The Easter Road side know their possible Europa Conference League opponents.

Lee Johnson: Hibernian not thinking about Aston Villa as focus is on Luzern SNS Group

Lee Johnson insists Hibernian have not given much thought to the possibility of a Europa Conference League play-off showdown with Aston Villa because they are so focused on trying to negotiate a “really tight and tough” tie against Swiss side Luzern.

Hibs learned on Monday that if they get through the third qualifying round over the next week, they will face the English Premier League side later this month for a place in the group stage.

That prospect has fuelled excitement among supporters, with Hibernian’s 2016 Scottish Cup-winning hero John McGinn – a former team-mate of current Hibees Lewis Stevenson and Paul Hanlon – now captain of Villa.

However, Johnson is adamant his players’ sole focus this week has been on how to deal with Luzern, who visit Easter Road for the first leg on Thursday.

“Getting through the round is the big incentive for us,” he said. “Obviously Aston Villa would be a huge match for Hibs fans for a number of reasons, particularly John McGinn.

“But our focus has to be on this game. If we start letting our minds go too far into the future, we’re going to the outcome before we’ve sorted out the process.

“To be honest, no one’s even mentioned it (Aston Villa) because I think they understand that this is a really tight and tough game that we’ve got to do our best to win.”

Johnson described Luzerne as a team he would expect to be “in the top echelons” of the Scottish Premiership when asked to place them in such a hypothetical context.

“We can expect a very good side,” he said of a team that finished fourth in the Swiss Super League last term. “They’re very well organised, with some really good individuals.

“They’ve got pace, they’ve got a 6ft 6ins centre-forward that can hold the ball up. They’re reserved and then super-aggressive in terms of their press so it’s important we understand where the next pass is.

“I like them, they’re a good side, but we’ve got enough footballers and enough threats. The challenge of this game will be about which team can impose their threats on the opponent more.

“Adam Owen (Hibs assistant) worked at Servette so he has a really good concept of Swiss football and I think when we play at intensity – at our best in your mind’s eye – that could be a factor, so it’s important we do that.

“The objective for us is to win the game. We’re not fearful. Scoring goals is not a problem for us but we’ve got a few weaknesses and we’ve got to coach those weaknesses out.”

New Dutch attacker Dylan Vente – who joined from Roda JC last week – will be in the squad for the first time after being granted a work permit.

“He’ll bring good finishing technique,” said Johnson. “If the ball falls to Dylan, he’s very clean in the way he finishes. He’s got good pedigree having been at Feyenoord for so long, he’s an intelligent footballer.”

With Rocky Bushiri available against Luzern in the midst of a domestic suspension, Hibs are only without long-term absentees Jojo Wollacott, Chris Cadden and Harry McKirdy on Thursday.

Goalkeeper Wollacott is set to be sidelined until late September at the earliest after sustaining a thigh injury on his debut against Andorran side Inter d’Escaldes last Thursday.

“He’s had his scan but we’ve not had the surgeon’s review yet,” said Johnson. “More than likely, in a best-case scenario it will be a muscle tear.

“In a worst-case scenario it will involve a tendon as well. Minimum, from all the information I’ve got, he will be ruled out for six weeks but it could be worse than that.”

Striker McKirdy has undergone successful heart surgery over the past week after the club discovered an issue in the close-season that they wanted investigated further.

The Hibees revealed on Wednesday that they were “confident that Harry will return to full fitness following his rehabilitation period”.

“I’m very conscious not to give a timescale too early,” Johnson added. “I think that will become more prevalent over the next three or four weeks but certainly he is in a good place in terms of the big picture of anybody who has had open-heart surgery.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code