Balzan and Sliema Wanderers cross swords on Saturday in the final of the FA Trophy at the National Stadium, kick-off at 17:00. The last edition for which the current trophy will be at stake as this is set to be replaced, as from next season, by a new trophy which is being sponsored by The FA who had also donated the current trophy to the MFA back in 1933.
The two finalists have a completely different story in the competition. Sliema Wanderers won the competition a record twenty times and reached the final another twenty times. They won the competition for the last time in 2009 when they defeated Valletta on penalties. Since then they reached the final once again in 2014 but lost to Valletta 0-1. Balzan, on the other hand, made it to the semi-finals and the final for the first time in the history of the club this season and are chasing their first major honour after qualifying for the UEFA Europa League thanks to a fourth-place finish in the BOV Premier League last year.
This season, Balzan also placed fourth in the Premier League after spending almost the whole season in the top three places, also enjoying the top spot for a few weeks. On the other hand, for Sliema, this was a rather disappointing season in which they finished seventh.
However after struggling to eliminate First Division Vittoriosa Stars with a narrow 1-0 score and Second Division side Gharghur with a 2-1 score, the Blues defeated St. Andrews 2-1 in the quarter-finals to set-up a clash with Birkirkara where they managed to eliminate the holders and firm favourites to win the competition by beating them 1-0 despite playing in ten men for the final part of the game.
Balzan, on the other hand, defeated First Division sides Fgura United 2-1 and Melita 2-0 but needed extra-time to eliminate Tarxien Rainbows 1-0 in the quarter-finals and Pembroke Athleta 3-1 in last week’s semi-final.
A boost for Balzan is the return of Lydon Micallef who served a one-match ban in the semi-final against Pembroke. On the other hand, Sliema will be without the suspended Gary Muir.
In the final, extra-time will be played if necessary and if the result is still draw at the end of extra-time, penalty kicks will determine the winner.