Birkirkara will be aiming for a positive result on Tuesday as they take Andorran champions FC Santa Coloma in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round at the Estadi Comunal in Andorra La Vella, kick-off at 19:00.
Last week, the Stripes failed to impress in the Euro Cup as they lost 1-3 to Sliema Wanderers and 0-3 to Valletta but for these games, Birkirkara were not in full strength due to injuries and suspensions. But still, these matches were a good test for Paul Zammit’s side ahead of these clashes with FC Santa Coloma. A team which on paper is more or less of the same strength of Maltese clubs although in this competition, the Andorran side was seeded and Birkirkara was not.
Keeping the second leg in mind, Birkirkara will aim at avoiding defeat in Andorra and then win the return match, therefore securing a place in the second qualifying round where they would meet MŠK Žilina of Slovakia.
FC Santa Coloma are the strongest Andorran side in recent times.
They won the championship five times – 2000/01, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2007/08 and 2009/10, the cup eight times (1991, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009) and the Super Cup four times (2003, 2005, 2007, 2008).
This will be their sixth participation in European competitions and are yet to reach a further round in a UEFA competition. They took part in the UEFA Cup four times, losing to FK Partizan Belgrade in 2001, Esbjerg FB of Denmark in 2003, FK Modrica of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2004 and Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2007. Against Maccabi, they obtained their best ever result, defeating them 1-0 at home although they lost 4-0 in Tel Aviv. In 2008, they were eliminated from the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League after losing 2-7 on aggregate to FBK Kaunas of Lithuania.
Birkirkara have been taking part in UEFA competitions on a regular basis since 1997, representing Malta twice in the UEFA Champions League, nine times in the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League and once in the now defunct UEFA Intertoto Cup. They recorded their best run in 2001 when they reached the first round of the UEFA Cup after eliminating Lokomotiv Tbilisi of George from the qualifying round.
After missing the Euro Cup matches, Rowen Muscat will be back for the Stripes but Angus Buhagiar is unavailable. Included in the squad are Brazilian goalkeeper Esequiel Lovizon and Italian striker Jacopo Camilli.
The players at the disposal of coach Paul Zammit are:
goalkeepers Esequiel Lovizon, Omar Borg;
defenders Thomas Paris, Nikola Vukanac, Andrew Scicluna, Patrick Borg, Joseph Zerafa, Andrew Decesare;
midfielders Paul Fenech, Rowen Muscat, Shaun Bajada, Alan Tabone, Trevor Cilia;
forwards Michael Galea, Sylvano Comvalius, Karl Pulo, Jacopo Camilli.
The return leg will be played at the Centenary Stadium on Tuesday 6th July.