After eliminating FC Santa Coloma of Andorra with a 7-3 aggregate score, Birkirkara will be hosting MŠK Žilina of Slovakia in the first leg of the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League at the Centenary Stadium on Tuesday, kick-off at 18:00.
The Stripes’ task is definitely is much more difficult as the champions of Slovakia are ranked much higher than the champions of Andorra.
Last week, Birkirkara only needed to avoid a heavy defeat in order to progress to the second round after being awarded a 3-0 win by the UEFA Control & Disciplinary Body for the first leg match which was cancelled. The Stripes had a positive start, taking an early lead, and although Santa Coloma levelled matters, Paul Zammit’s side extended the lead to 3-1 and then 4-2. However after the break they seemed to be too relaxed
with the visitors narrowing the gap to just one goal.
Against Žilina, the Stripes have to be at their very best in order to make sure of a good performance and possibly a positive result from this first leg.
MŠK Žilina are considered to be one of strongest clubs in Slovakia. Following dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, Žilina have been playing in the Slovak Superliga with the exception of 1995-96 season after relegation to the Second Division. Since 2002, they won five championships and finished runners-up on three occasions. They also won the Slovakian Super Cup three times.
In season 2003/04, they reached the third round of the Champions League where they were eliminated by Chelsea. Then they played in the first round of the UEFA Cup and were eliminated by FC Utrecht.
Besides reaching the quarter-finals of the the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1961, Žilina’s best achievement in recent years was in the UEFA Cup during season 2008/09. They eliminated MTZ-Ripo Minsk of Belarus with a 3-2 aggregate score and Slovan Liberec of the Czech Republic 4-2 on aggregate in the first and second qualifying rounds. In the first round proper they defeated Levski Sofia with a 2-1 aggregate score to reach the group stage. They lost 1-2 to Hamburg at home, 1-0 to Ajax in Amsterdam, were held in a goalless draw by Slavia Praha at home but defeated Aston Villa 2-1 away from home.
Last season, in the UEFA Cup, they eliminated Dacia Chisinau of Moldova and Hajduk Split of Croatia in the second and third qualifying rounds but were then eliminated by Partizan Belgrade.
Birkirkara FC vs MŠK Žilina will be controlled by officials from Wales, namely referee Simon Lee Evans, assistant referees Philip Thomas and Mark Dyson and fourth official Dean John.
The return leg will be played in Zilina on Wednesday 21.
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