Hibernians will be needing a three-goal win to reach the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League as they host FC Flora Tallinn in the second leg of the first qualifying round at the Centenary Stadium on Tuesday, kick-off at 18:00.
After the away-goals rule was scrapped by UEFA last month, a win by three or more goals would see Hibernians through while in case of a win by two goals, the match would go into extra-time. Any other result would put Flora Tallinn into the next round of the UEFA Champions League.
In fact, two goals by Rauno Sappinen in the last fifteen minutes, after Sergio Raphael was sent off for the Paolites, handed the Estonian side a comfortable lead and therefore these start as firm favourites to reach the next stage where they would meet either Bodø/Glimt of Norway and Legia Warszawa of Poland. Legia won the first leg 3-2 in Norway.
In case of elimination, they enter the second qualifying round champions path of the UEFA Europa Conference League where they would face SS Folgore of San Marino.
Apart from the suspended Sergio Raphael, Hibs could not count on goalkeeper Matthew Calleja Cremona who is ruled out for several weeks due to an injury. He was replaced by Nicky Vella who made his debut in Tallinn last week.
Other new faces for the Paolites were Thaylor who was also named in the starting line-up and Wilfried Domoraud.
Last season, FK Flora were eliminated from the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League after losing on penalties to FK Suduva of Lithuania but then eliminated KR Reykjavik of Iceland and Floriana (on penalties) in the second and third qualifying rounds of the UEFA Europa League, exiting the competition following a 1-3 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in the play-off round. This was the best run ever for the club in European club football.
Hibernians, on the other hand, never made it past a second round, reaching that stage in 2002/03 when they eliminated Shelbourne of Ireland, in 2017/18 when they eliminated FCI Tallinn of Estonia and last year when they eliminated FC Vaduz of Liechtenstein with a 2-0 win away from home, losing out 0-1 to Fehervar at home.