The first honour of the season will be at stake as champions Hibernians take on FA Trophy winners Birkirkara in the BOV Super Cup on Wednesday, kick-off at 20:00.
The two teams will be facing each other ten weeks after the Paolites, who had suffered just one defeat in thirty-seven matches, between BOV Premier League and FA Trophy matches, met the Stripes in the FA Trophy final, losing 0-2.
This will be the third consecutive BOV Super Cup final for Birkirkara who won the competition five times between 2002 and 2007 and once again in 2013 and 2014. Hibs, on the other hand, won the competition in 1994 and 2007.
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During the close season, Hibs signed Gilmar and Jorge Santos from Naxxar and goalkeeper Matthew Towns. Henry Bonello was not retained while Marko Rajic and Luis de Melo Lima were released.
Birkirkara, on the other hand, appointed Giovanni Tedesco as their new coach. They signed Emerson Marcelina and Vito Plut from Floriana, Fabrizio Miccoli, Bosnian striker Edin Murga, young goalkeeper Philip Schranz and Under-21 international Cain Attard. Matheus Bissi, Rafael Ledesma and Mirza Hamzabegovic were not retained while Liliu has just moved to Hungary.
In Europe, Hibernians defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-1 at the Hibernians Stadium but lost in Tel Aviv. Birkirkara, on the other hand, eliminated Ulisses FC of Armenia with a 3-1 aggregate score thanks to an impressive win in Yerevan and were unlucky to bow out of the competition after losing to West Ham United on penalties.
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Speaking on the eve of the game, Tedesco paid tribute to former Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit as he said that it was thanks to him and his players that Birkirkara will be playing the BOV Super Cup final. The Italian coach said this will be his first final in his career and therefore it was a bit emotional for him.
Tedesco said Birkirkara will be facing a strong side which had an impressive campaign last season and the Stripes will pay them the deserved respect but will not be afraid of them.
The Birkirkara coach stressed that Hibernians still remain favourites this season. He said Birkirkara had a strong team but the pressure was on the Paolites to repeat themselves.
Hibernians coach Branko Nisevic said this was the first official match of the season and there was therefore a lot to play for. He said that this will definitely give him the opportunity to see the new players and how they have fitted in. He said that following the departure of Tarabai last March, they signed two new strikers in their bid to fill his gap. Former Valletta striker Denni started training with Hibernians this week but has not yet signed for the club. Nisevic said chances of him signing were good.
Branko Nisevic – a former assistant coach of Birkirkara – said the Stripes were one of the few teams which really gave Hibs a hard time last season and with the addition of a new coach and new players, they are even stronger.
One player who should be making his return after a long absence was Gareth Sciberras. Giovanni Tedesco said he was glad to welcome back a gentleman, he hailed as the team captain. Rowen Muscat and Fabrizio Miccoli are set to miss the game due to slight injuries but Zach Muscat, back from a trial with Pisa, is set to play.
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Gareth Sciberras said he was feeling a bit emotional on his return after a long absence. He admitted that an injury setback in pre-season almost led him to giving up but thanks to full support of the coach and technical staff and the full backing of the club who showed him great respect, he is set to make his return. He said that with the increase in the number of foreigners, the club could have easily discarded him. Sciberras also thanked his family, and especially his wife, for supporting him.
Hibs captain Andrew Cohen said he was looking forward for this clash against Birkirkara which was one of the teams who gave Hibernians the hardest time. He said all players were looking forward to this final as this was the kind of game, players like to play.