City with one eye on FK Partizan after drawing Andorra’s Lusitans
Europa League – Sarajevo vs Hibs, Birkirkara vs M. Skopje, Elfsborg vs Floriana
Valletta will launch their latest quest to make their mark in Europe on July 4 when they host Andorra’s FC Lusitans at Corradino in the opening leg of their Champions League first qualifying round match.
The Citizens, one of three seeded teams before yesterday’s draw, will surely fancy their chances of overcoming Lusitans and set up a match against Serbian champions FK Partizan in the next round.
Lusitans are making their debut in the competition after winning their first ever Andorra title with a 2-1 victory over San Julia on the last day of the season.
The club was founded by Portuguese immigrants in 1999 and have several Portuguese players in their ranks.
Victor Sciriha, the Valletta FC president, declared himself satisfied with the draw.
“I’m pleased,” Sciriha told The Times.
“We were keen to avoid Torshavn, of the Faroe Islands, because of the long trip that would have entailed. We don’t know much about Lusitans but on paper, we are the favourites.”
It’s an open secret that one of Sciriha’s main ambitions is for Valletta to advance to the latter qualifying stages of the Champions League.
Last season, Valletta cleared the first hurdle in the Champions League after a 5-1 aggregate win over San Marino’s Tre Fiori but their run was halted by Lithuania’s Ekranas who won 4-2 over two legs.
Valletta have good reason to be confident of reaching the second qualifying round but their chances of advancing further look remote, what with Partizan Belgrade lying in wait in the second qualifying round.
“Partizan are very strong,” Sciriha said from Nyon.
“We must concentrate on getting through the first qualifying round before we start thinking about Partizan.
“If we qualify, we would play Partizan at home in the first leg and that would be an advantage for us.”
The second leg of the Valletta-Lusitans tie will be played in Andorra on July 10 or 11.
Apart from Valletta, three other Maltese clubs – Hibs, Birkirkara and Floriana – were involved in the draw for the first qualifying round of the Europa League yesterday.
Hibs have been paired with FK Sarajevo, who secured a berth in the Europa League after finishing fourth in the Bosnian championship last season.
The Paolites travel to Sarajevo for the first leg on July 5 with the return leg a week later at the Hibs Stadium.
The winner of the Hibs-Sarajevo match will meet Bulgarian side Levski Sofia in the next round.
Birkirkara start with a home tie against Macedonia’s Metalurg Skope on July 5.
Poland’s Ruch Chorzow await the winner of this tie in the second qualifying round.
Floriana will be up against Sweden’s IF Elfsborg.
Like Hibs, the Greens have been drawn away for the first leg. The indications are that Floriana’s matches against Elfsborg will be brought forward to avoid clashing with Hibs in the second leg, given the shortage of adequate pitches in Malta at this time of the year.
The winners of the Floriana-Elfsborg match will play Dacia Chisinau in the second qualifying round.
The UEFA draws in Nyon...
First qualifying round (July 03/04 and 10/11)
F91 Dudelange (LUX) vs SP Tre Penne (SMR)
Valletta (MLT) vs Lusitans (AND)
Linfield (NIR) vs B36 Torshavn (FRO)
Second qualifying round (July 17/18 and 24/25)
KS Skenderbeu (ALB) vs Debreceni (HUN)
NK Maribor (SVN) vs FK Zeljeznicar (BIH)
MSK Zilina (SVK) vs H. Kiryat Shmona (ISR)
BATE Borisov (BLR) vs FK Vardar (MKD)
AEL Limassol (CYP) vs Linfield/B36 Torshavn
Shamrock Rovers (IRL) vs FK Ekranas (LTU)
Flora Tallinn (EST) vs FC Basel (SUI)
The New Saints (WAL) vs Helsingborgs (SWE)
HJK Helsinki (FIN) vs KR Reykjavik (ISL)
Molde FK (NOR) vs FK Ventspils (LVA)
F91 Dudelange/SP Tre Penne vs Salzburg (AUT)
Slovan Liberec (CZE) vs S. Karagandy (KAZ)
L. Razgrad (BUL) vs Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)
Neftci PFK (AZE) vs Zestafoni (GEO)
Ulisses (ARM) vs Sheriff (MDA)
Valletta/Lusitans vs Partizan (SRB)
Buducnost (MNE) vs Sląsk Wroclaw (POL)
Maltese teams in Europa League
First qualifying round draw (July 5 and 12)
IF Elfsborg (SWE) vs Floriana FC (MLT)
FK Sarajevo (BIH) vs Hibernians FC (MLT)
Birkirkara FC (MLT) vs Metalurg Skopje (MKD)
Second qualifying round (July 19 and 26)
Levski Sofia (BUL) vs FK Sarajevo/Hibernians
D. Chisinau (MDA)/Celje (SVN) vs IF Elfsborg/Floriana
Ruch Chorzow (POL) vs Birkirkara/Metalurg Skopje