Michael Mifsud is set to make his debut for Valletta on Tuesday as the Citizens host Lithuanian champions FK Ekranas in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round at the Hibernians Stadium, kick-off at 19:30.
Although these opponents are definitely a stronger side compared to Tre Fiori, Valletta will be hoping to continue where they had left against the Sammarinese side with a win which would put them in a good position of securing a place in the third qualifying round.
A setback for the Citizens is the absence of Denni Rocha Dos Santos who was injured in the second leg against Tre Fiori. The Brazilian striker is on the road to recovery but Jesmond Zerafa is not expected to risk playing him. He joins the injured Lucas Ramon Dos Santos on the sidelines.
However, besides the inclusion of Michael Mifsud, who will be back for the Citizens after spending with them the last part of season 2009/10, the Valletta coach’s options are boosted with the return of flank defender Ian Azzopardi who served his two match ban after being sent off while playing with Sliema last season.
Futbolo Klubas Ekranas come from the town of Panev?žys in Lithuania. They currently lead the way in the Lithuanian A Lyga with 43 points from 17 matches, six points ahead of Žalgiris.
The club was founded in 1964 and won six Lithuanian championships – including three consecutive titles in the last three years, five Lithuanian Cups and four Lithuanian Super Cups. In August 2006, FK Ekranas won the first Baltic Champion’s Cup tournament in Liep?ja after beating Estonian champions TVMK Tallinn 6–4 and drawing with the home side Liep?jas Metalurgs 1–1.
This will be their second visit to Malta as they met Floriana in the Champions Cup in 1993. The Greens moved on to the next round after beating them 1-0 both at Ta’ Qali and in Lithuania. That was Ekranas’ first ever participation in UEFA competitions.
Since then they managed to reach a further round in a UEFA competition on three occasions. In 2004, they eliminated F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg from the first qualifying round of the UEFA Cup with a 3-1 aggregate score. In 2006, they eliminated KS Elbasani of Albania, losing 1-0 in Albania but winning 3-0 at home and in 2007, they defeated B36 Torshavn of the Faroe Islands with a 6-3 aggregate score in the UEFA Cup.
Last year, Ekranas won the title with 63 points, seven ahead of S?duva. They also won the Lithuanian Cup beating Banga 4-2 after extra-time.
The winner of this two legged clash between Valletta and Ekranas will move on to the third qualifying round – the draws for which will be held on Friday.