Malta Football Association
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Four teams pursue coveted spot in FA Trophy final – Preview
Apr 27, 2018
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The quest for cup glory resumes in earnest this weekend when the four remaining teams in this season’s BOOST Diesel FA Trophy contest the two eagerly-awaited semi-finals.


Birkirkara meet Sliema Wanderers in the first semi-final at the National Stadium on Saturday while newly-crowned champions Valletta face Balzan on Sunday in a rematch between the two main title contenders this season. Both semi-finals begin at 16.00.

 

For Birkirkara, their semi-final against Sliema is also shaping up as a Europa League decider as a win would seal the Stripes’ qualification to the European club competition on the back of their fourth-place finish in the BOV Premier League.

 

Sliema Wanderers must go all the way and win the cup to qualify for the Europa League after missing out on a top-four finish.

 

The importance of Saturday’s semi-final has not been lost on the two teams.

 

“We’re aware that it’s going to be a difficult match,” Michael Valenzia, the Technical Director of Birkirkara FC, said during a pre-match news conference organised by the Malta FA at the Trophies Lounge.

 

“Sliema Wanderers are a strong, well-organised team. In the first round league match, we lost to Sliema Wanderers but we deservedly won the second meeting.

 

“We are 90 minutes away from obtaining a place in Europe and we will be doing our best to reach this target.”

 

Birkirkara will be without Carlos Alberto Goncalves, Nikola Vukanac and Terence Agius, all suspended.

 

Sliema Wanderers coach John Buttigieg acknowledged the importance of Saturday’s semi-final.

 

“It’s a very important semi-final,” Buttigieg said.

 

“Our aim is to win this competition which would also mean European qualification for the club.

 

“We know it’s going to be a tough match as we’re facing a strong team but in the cup, it’s one match and everything is possible.

 

“I believe that our players are very motivated to win the trophy. As a player, the nicest thing is to win trophies.”

 

The Blues, who have won the FA Trophy a record 21 times, are chasing their third final in a row.

 

In 2016, they beat Balzan on penalties but last year, they went down to Old Firm rivals Floriana 2-0.

 

In the championship, Sliema beat Birkirkara 3-0 in the first round but the latter won the second-round encounter 2-1.

 

VALLETTA-BALZAN

 

Just over a week after Valletta pipped Balzan to the BOV Premier League title, the two heavyweights lock horns in a direct clash with a place in the BOOST Diesel FA Trophy at stake.

 

Danilo Doncic, the Valletta coach, said the players are now focusing on the FA Trophy semi-final.

 

“We have won the championship and our main target has been reached,” Doncic said.

 

“But in football, you only think about the next match. If you lose, you do your best to get over it quickly and if you win, you try to keep the positive run going.

 

“The celebrations are over. Since Tuesday, we started focusing on the FA Trophy semi-final.

 

“For me this is the final before the final because, with all respect to the other teams, Balzan are the strongest opponents in my opinion.

 

“In fact, I didn’t want to meet them in the semi-finals but now that we have this match, we will be looking to repeat our performances in our last four matches where, apart from the draw against Floriana, we played well and dominated the games.”

 

Balzan coach Marko Micovic is backing his players to bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on the title.

 

“Congratulations to Valletta for winning the BOV Premier League,” Micovic said.

 

“I also wish Valletta good luck in the Champions League and that they represent Maltese football in the best way possible.

 

“I agree with Danilo that this is the final before the final, with due respect to the other teams.

 

“We need to recover from the emotional crash we had last weekend but I’m confident that the players will be doing their best to win this semi-final.

 

“Our objective is to win what would be a historic trophy for Balzan FC.”

 

Striker Michael Mifsud is still out for Valletta, injured, while goalkeeper Ivan Janjusevic and midfielder Uros Ljubomirac will miss out for Balzan.

 

In the league, Balzan beat Valletta 2-1 in the first round while the second-round meeting ended 0-0.

 


 

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