Birkirkara and Sliema Wanderers cross swords in the first semi-final of the FA Trophy, powered by Boost Diesel, at the National Stadium on Saturday, kick-off at 16:00.
Winning the FA Trophy is of utmost importance for both sides as they chase the remaining place in the UEFA Europa League along with Balzan and Gzira United. Sliema won the competition a record number of twenty one times with the Stripes emerging as winners on five occasions.
To reach this stage, the Wanderers eliminated three Premier League clubs – defeating St. Andrews 3-1, Hamrun 1-0 and Hibernians on penalties following a goalless draw. On the other hand, Birkirkara defeated Second Division side Santa Lucia 5-0 and First Division sides San Gwann 2-1 after extra-time and Qrendi 3-0.
Addressing the media on Friday, Sliema coach John Buttigieg said this semi-final was very important for the club – both for the prestige of the competition and also for the fact that a win in the final would guarantee a place in Europe and hence a financial boost for the club. He said that although he is well aware of the strength of their opponents, if his players gave their very best, they would be able to make it to the final. On the other hand, Birkirkara team manager Michael Valenzia said they would be facing a technically disciplines side who will be all out to win in order to reach the final since this was the only chance to achieve a place in the UEFA Europa League. Valenzia added that following a poor start, the club reached this stage thanks to the hard work by the technical staff, committee and players and now believes they have what it takes to win this competition and end the season on a positive note.
Sliema defeated Birkirkara 3-0 in the BOV Premier League first round while the second round clash ended in a 2-1 win for Birkirkara.