Valletta will be aiming for a third positive result in a row as they take on FC Minsk of Belarus in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round at the National Stadium on Thursday, kick-off at 19:30.
The Citizens qualified after a 4-0 aggregate win over SP La Fiorita of San Marino while FC Minsk qualified directly for a place in the second round of the competition. Undoubtedly, FC Minsk are much stronger than La Fiorita but Valletta will be all out to claim a good result in order to maintain hopes of reaching a historic place in the third qualifying round.
Since last week, the team has been strengthened with the signing of Spanish striker Arnal Llibert Conde who will hopefully improve the Citizens’ finishing up front. It would be no surprise if Mark Miller were to include him in the starting line-up.
FC Minsk placed sixth in the Premier League in Belarus last season on 39 points, twenty-nine behind champions BATE Borisov. However they won the Cup after defeating Dinamo Minsk on penalties.
The 2013 domestic season has already kicked-off in Belarus and FC Minsk are currently sixth on 22 points, twenty behind leaders Shakhtyor Soligorsk.
The club was only formed in 2006. They took part in UEFA competitions only once, in season 2011/12 when they eliminated AZAL Baku of Azerbaijan with a 3-2 aggregate score from the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League, losing 2-5 on aggregate to Gaziantepspor of Turkey.
This will only be the second time, clubs from Malta and Belarus are facing each other in one of the major UEFA club competitions. In 1994, Dinamo Minsk had eliminated Hibernians from the UEFA Cup after a 3-1 win in Minsk and a 3-4 defeat at Ta’ Qali after extra-time.