Champions Valletta will be aiming for a good performance and hopefully a positive result as they host FK Partizan Belgrade in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round at the Hibernians Stadium on Tuesday, kick-off at 20:45.
After eliminating FC Lusitans with an aggregate score of 9-0, the Citizens’ morale is sky-high but they are well aware of the strength of the team led by Vladimir Vermezovic.
Last season, FK Partizan were again the team to beat as they recorded a fifth straight Serbian title success. It was the 24th in the history of the team in Black and White and leaves them just one short of Red Star’s total.
Partizan had already eliminated three Maltese clubs in UEFA competitions. In the UEFA Cup 1984/85, they defeated Rabat Ajax 2-0 at Ta’ Qali and 2-0 at home. In 1990/91, they were drawn with Hibernians in the first round of the UEFA Cup, defeating the Paolites 3-0 at Ta’ Qali and 2-0 in Belgrade. On the other hand, in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Cup 2000/01, Sliema Wanderers beat Partizan 2-1 at Ta’ Qali but the Serbians won 4-1 in Belgrade to move on to the next stage.
For this two-legged tie, the Citizens registered two new players, namely Nigerian striker Frank Temile and Brazilian midfielder Gabriel, including them in the UEFA list.
Former City favourite Frank Temile left Valletta at the end of a successful 2007/08 season to join Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine. Unfortunately, he failed to leave his mark with the club and last season, he joined PFC Olexandria on loan. On the other hand, a former player of Olimpija Ljubjana of Slovenia – João Gabriel Da Silva is the sixth Brazilian player in the Valletta squad apart from William Barbosa, Denni Rocha dos Santos, Jusselio da Silva, Ricardo Filho and the in-form Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao. The other foreigner on the club’s books is Dutch goalkeeper Andre Krul.