Lewis Stevenson admits he looks on with immense pride at how John McGinn has excelled in the English top-flight with Aston Villa.

As the Scotland international prepares for a poignant return to Hibs on European duty tomorrow, Stevenson, however, hopes the emotion of the night throws his former team-mate off track.

Hibs know they face an almighty challenge in trying to overcome the Birmingham club across two legs in their Europa Conference League play-off tie, so Stevenson is ready to seize on any advantage, no matter how small.

Some five years have passed since McGinn - a 2016 Scottish Cup winner with Hibs - left for the club for Villa but the Hibs fans still hold him in high regard.

Stevenson hopes the 28-year-old Villa captain loses an edge from being guaranteed a warm welcome back by the home fans.

“He was brilliant, I could not speak any higher of him as a player and person,” said Stevenson. 

"The club still means a great deal to him as well, hopefully he will be a bit spooked by that and maybe off guard a bit. 

“He was an unbelievable player and when people leave you want to see them do well. 

“We’ve seen him thrive and get better and better and he’s one of the best players in the Premier League.

“And to do so well for Scotland is great to see but we can’t focus too much on him. 

“It’s still a competitive game, an amazing occasion for us. 

"We have to make a decent game of it.”

READ MORE: Hibs vow not to get distracted by John McGinn sideshow

Messages have been exchanged by McGinn and his old Hibs team-mates but Stevenson admits the bustling midfielder has stopped short of trying to wind his one-time colleagues up.

“I think he’s probably as excited as we are,” added Stevenson. 

“It’s probably somewhere he thought he would never play again. 

“I thought I’d never play against him again. He was unbelievable here, a proper hero in the relatively short time he was here. 

“I’ve never seen someone make such an impact with the fans, the whole club. 

“It will be great to see him back but when that whistle starts he’s on the opposite side and he is the enemy for 90 minutes or 180 minutes.

“There will be 22 players on the pitch and we cannot focus too much on John. 

“I think they’ve just spent £80 million in the last week or so.

“But I’m sure he will get an amazing ovation from the fans."

Hibs have been given next to no chance of reaching the group stages of the competition although Stevenson is adamant that Lee Johnson’s side will make a fist of it.

He added: “They’ll be the best team I’ve faced, apart from a Barcelona friendly.

‘We’ve come up against good Celtic and Rangers teams but even money wise they’re a step ahead. 

“It’s going to be really tough, it’s something that I thought I’d never do, play against an English Premier League team in a competitive game and I’ll be trying to make the most of it. 

“I’ll be telling the younger ones that these games don’t come around very often so we need to enjoy them.

“I can’t emphasise how hard it’s going to be but we’re not just here to make up the numbers or be here for the occasion, we need to try and put some sort of game in, we’re not just here to get our tummies tickled.”