The BOV Premier League 2011/12 kicks-off on Friday with the first two matches at the National Stadium. This will be the first time, twelve teams are taking part in the top division after a new format was adopted for domestic competitions.
Birkirkara take on Qormi in the first game at 18:30 while Sliema Wanderers and Hibernians cross swords in the other match at 20:30 as they hope to start the season on a positive note after disappointing last season.
Birkirkara vs Qormi
Birkirkara and Qormi both went through major changes this summer.
The Stripes appointed Patrick Curmi as new coach with Peter Pullicino as his assistant. Michael Fraser, Nikola Vukanac, Rodolfo Kumbrevicius and Ibrahim Babatunde were not retained while Emiliano Lattes joined Marsaxlokk. Among the players who turned out for them in summer, Matt Clarke, Marcis Savinovs, Victor Rena, Antonio Gomes and David De Silva were not retained.
Goalkeeper Jorge Mora is back with the club after winning the Premier League title with the Stripes in season 2009/10. Brazilian defender Rodrigo Frank Pereira and Spanish striker Moises Avila Perez are the other two new foreigners. Italian striker Jacopo Camilli is the other foreigner on the club’s books.
From the local market, Birkirkara secured the services of Malta international midfielder Gareth Sciberras and Under-21 international Leighton Grech. Striker Terence Vella made a permanent move to the club after spending last season on loan.
Captain Michael Galea opted not to renew his contract with the club and Andrei Agius’ loan term with the club expired. Karl Pulo and Thomas Paris were transferred to Tarxien and Floriana while Patrick Borg, Andrew Scicluna and Andreas Galea were loaned to Marsaxlokk, Mqabba and St. Patrick respectively.
Since last season, Qormi lost the services of Michael Mifsud who joined Valletta, Stefan Giglio moved to Tarxien Rainbows while Matthew Camilleri joined Balzan Youths.
They confirmed Christos Karamanolis and signed two new Brazilian players Giuseppe Vela Junior and Jorge Pereira da Silva. They are yet to finalise their foreign line-up with Nigerians Shola Shodiya and Daniel Nwoke being among the other possible foreigners.
Other new signings for Qormi include Under-21 international goalkeeper Steve Sultana who joined the club from Nadur Youngsters, Charlon Sammut of Dingli, Christian Briffa of Hibernians and veterans Jeffrey Chetcuti and Dino Cachia.
Former Birkirkara coach Stephen Azzopardi starts his second year as coach of Qormi. This season, he will be assisted by Technical Advisor Steve D’Amato.
While challenging for honours is the main objective for Birkirkara, avoiding relegation on the other hand, should be the main goal for the Yellow-Blacks.
Sliema W. vs Hibernians
Meanwhile in the second match, Sliema Wanderers take on Hibernians.
After playing in the Relegation Pool last season, the Wanderers worked hard to strenghten their squad, signing foreigners Jorge Santos Silva from Vittoriosa, Rumen Galabov from Marsaxlokk together with Bulgarian midfielder Danial Mitev and Nigerian striker Jerry Ani. Jackson Lima Sequeira was the only foreigner to be confirmed by coach Danilo Doncic with Viktor Szentpeteri and Obinna Obiefule both being released.
They also secured the services of Anthony Curmi from Tarxien, Ryan Grech from Vittoriosa, Timmy Thomas from Senglea and Cleavon Frendo from Valletta.
John Mintoff and James Paris were loaned to Floriana and Mqabba respectively, Adam Spiteri moved to Vittoriosa while Clayton Failla was transferred to his former club, Hibernians.
Failla is in fact expected to make his debut for the Paolites in this game. He was the cherry on the cake of an intensive transfer campaign which saw Hibernians secure the services of four Brazilian players – Diego Douglas Balbinot, Rodolfo Dos Santos Soares, Marcelo Mariano Dias and former Vittoriosa Stars striker Edison Luis Dos Santos.
Jean Paul Farrugia moved to Marsaxlokk on loan, the same destination of Jonathan Xerri who played for Vittoriosa last season. Goalkeeper David Cassar made a permanent move to Tarxien while Daniel Balzan joined St. Andrews in Division 1. Foreigners Matt Clarke, Paul McManus, Brian Fairbairn and Patrick Osei were not retained.
Coach Mark Miller starts his fourth season at the club.
Without any doubt, a top six finish is a must for both Sliema and Hibernians but they will keep a close eye on securing a place in one of the European competitions this summer.