The first edition of the BOV Premier League featuring fourteen clubs kicks-off on Friday evening with four matches – two at the Centenary Stadium with the newly-installed artificial turf pitch and another two at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.
Birkirkara cross swords with Floriana in what should turn out to be the big match for the weekend. Champions Hibernians take on St. Andrews, Tarxien Rainbows face Hamrun Spartans while newly-promoted Lija Athletic meet Gzira United.
Birkirkara vs Floriana, kick-off 18:30 at Centenary Stadium
The Birkirkara squad went through a complete overhaul following the appointment of Peter Pullicino as their new coach. They released all of their foreigners and retained only a handful of players from last year’s squad. They signed David Cassar from Tarxien, Jake Grech from Hamrun, Llywelyn Cremona and Luke Montebello from Valletta, Brandon Muscat from Hibernians and welcomed back Philip Schranz and Kurt Zammit who were on loan with Tarxien and Ryan Camenzuli from Floriana. New foreigners in squad are Brazilians Renato Camilo, Bruno Andrade and Carlos Alberto, Argentine Walter Azevedo, Czech Martin Klein, Cameroonian Ernest N’For and Swedish striker Alex Nilsson who joins the club on loan from Tarxien.
Floriana, on the other hand, signed Brazilians Arthur Henrique, Leozinho and Juninho Cabral, Maltese-Australian James Baldacchino, goalkeeper Ini Etim Akpan and Leighton Grech. The team led by Giovanni Tedesco is also on the verge of welcoming back Marcelina Emerson after playing for Birkirkara and Tarxien.
Challenging for honours is definitely the main objective for both sides after the Stripes finished third last season but missed out on participation in the UEFA Europa League after failing to obtain a UEFA Licence while Floriana finished fifth but landed the FA Trophy.
Tarxien Rainbows vs Hamrun Spartans, kick-off 20:45 at Centenary Stadium
The clash between Tarxien and Hamrun puts against each other two teams who had an intensive transfer campaign. The Rainbows appointed former St. Andrews coach Jose Borg as their new coach. They signed Andre Scicluna, Matteo Desira Buttigieg, Godwin McKay, Luke Grech, James Brincat, Ryan Darmanin, Sean Cipriott, Arsene Cilia, Matthew Spiteri and goalkeeper Dean Sciberras along with three new foreigners – Brazilian midfielder Ricardo Silva Faria, Romanian central midfielder Eduard Calin and Slovakian defender Artur Benes.
The Spartans, on the other hand, signed no less than eight new Brazilian players, namely Arthur Faria Machado, Valerio Gomes dos Santos, Mauricio Jose Marinho, Tiago Souza da Silveira, Guilherme Felipe de Castro, Thiago Espindola de Paula, Francisco Manoel Marino Clavero and Pedro Henrique Cortes Oliveira Gois. From the local market, they signed goalkeepers Jake Galea and Steve Sultana, defenders Dale Camilleri and Daniel Zerafa, midfielders Terence Agius and Triston Caruana and forward Julian Galea. Jacques Scerri will be leading the team after taking over mid-way through last seasonn.
Both Tarxien and Hamrun will be aiming at a much better finish this season after placing a lowly ninth and tenth respectively last season.
Lija Athletic vs Gzira United, kick-off 18:30 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
Newly-promoted Lija Athletic face Gzira United who will start their third year among the elite. Under the guidance of coach Joseph Galea, Lija strengthened their squad after signing Ousmane Sidibe, Djamel Leeflang, Marcelo Dias de Souza and Haris Memisevic, goalkeeper Jonathan Martinelli from Senglea Athletic and Zack Bowman from San Gwann while they welcomed back Nigel Spiteri, Luke Attard and Dylan Mintoff.
The Maroons, on the other hand, secured the services of Sacha Borg, Christian Sammut, Nikolai Muscat and Luca Brincat and foreigners Samba Tounkara, Emmanuel Ndbuisi Okoye, Gary Muir, Amadou Samb and concluded their campaign in style by capturing the signature of former Valletta captain Roderick Briffa. Tony Curmi and Zack Scerri re-joined the club for another season.
Hibernians vs St. Andrews, kick-off 20:45 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
Champions Hibernians will start their defence of the title with a clash with St. Andrews – another team who went through a number of changes in squad. The Saints, in fact, signed no less than thirteen new players, namely goalkeeper Matthew Calleja Cremona, Dario Zampa, Adrian Borg and Matthew Robert Gauci, Ghanian striker Innocent Tano Azian and Italian attacking midfielder Federico Mini, Canadian defender Tristan Grant and Jamaicans Kevaun St Michael Atkinson, Kemar David Reid, Ricardo Adrian Martin, Chevaughn Nicholas Mclaren, Kyle Butler and Travis Blagrove.
The Paolites, on the other hand, signed Austrian duo Martin Kreuzriegler and Marco Sahanek and Brazilian Jorge Elias dos Santos. Joseph Mbong is back after a spell in Croatia.
The championship will be once again the main objective for Mark Miller’s side while Danilo Doncic hopes to steer St. Andrews to another comfortable mid-table position.