Floriana will be facing some familiar faces as they take on AEK Larnaca in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round at the Hibernians Stadium on Thursday, kick-off at 19:30.
The team from Larnaca is led by former Valletta coach Ton Caanen while Jordi Cruijff, who played for the Citizens in season 2009/10, is the team manager. Former Malta international defender Luke Dimech and Njongo Priso are on the books of the Cypriot club which finished fourth in the Championship Pool.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Floriana coach Michael Woods said his main objective for this game is to maintain a clean sheet and to achieve this, the players had to remain concentrated for the whole ninety minutes.
Woods admitted this was a very important game for the club on its return to one of the main UEFA competitions after fourteen years. It was a difficult game, also considering the level of the game in Cyprus.
Captain Manolito Micallef said playing in Europe was a new experience for most of the players and hoped that just as the team did in the FA Trophy final against Valletta, the Greens rise to the occasion on Thursday, concluding by saying he is confident that the team will put up a good performance.
Floriana could have three new players making their debut after joining the club in the past days. Ghanian goalkeeper William Amamoo and Brazilian striker Edilson Fiori dos Santos joined the Greens last week. The latest addition to the Floriana squad is Argentine forward Julio Alcorse.
Striker Ivan Woods is in doubt as he is recovering from an injury while Duncan Pisani is ruled out.
AEK Larnaca FC are based in Larnaca, Cyprus. The club was formed in 1994 after a merger of two Larnaca clubs: EPA Larnaca and Pezoporikos.
AEK Larnaca won their first Cypriot Cup in 2004 beating AEL Limassol 2-1. They reached two more times the Cup final, but both times were beaten by APOEL FC; in 1996, 2-0 in extra time and in 2006, 3-2. It is their only title as AEK until now. The two clubs that led to the merger, EPA Larnaca FC and Pezoporikos Larnaca, also enjoyed separate success on their own, with the former winning three championship titles, five cups and one Super Cup and the latter winning two leagues and one cup.
This is only the third time they are taking part in UEFA competitions. In the Cup Winners’ Cup 1996/97, they eliminated Kotaik Abovyan of Armenia with a 5-1 aggregate score from the qualifying round but then lost 0-2 to Barcelona in the first round proper. In the UEFA Cup 2004/05, they defeated Maccabi Petah Tikva 3-0 at home but lost 4-0 away from home to bow out of the competition.