Valletta will be all out to make history as they take on FC Minsk at Torpedo Stadium in Zhodino, Belarus in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round, kick-off at 17:00 CET.
After holding them in a 1-1 draw at Ta’ Qali, the Citizens hope to become the first Maltese team to qualify through two consecutive rounds and the first to play in a third round of a UEFA competition.
Photo: Copyright © Joe Borg
Their task is very difficult but not impossible although preparation for the game was not ideal following a nightmare of a trip to reach Minsk. The squad left Malta on Tuesday afternoon, destination Frankfurt, from where they caught a flight Vilnius, Lithuania. After staying overnight in the Lithuanian capital, they started a journey of around 170 kilometers by coach but delays at the border between the two countries meant that the squad arrived in Minsk only in the afternoon, therefore hardly arriving twenty-four hours before the game.
For this clash, coach Mark Miller could count on new Brazilian striker Romulo Marques Antoneli who replaces Arnal Conde who failed to impress in the first leg at Ta’ Qali.
Valletta need a win or at least a 2-2 draw to reach the next stage. With a 1-1 draw, the game would go into extra-time.
For the Citizens, this would be the sixth time they qualified for a further round of a UEFA competition.
In the UEFA Champions League, in 1999, they eliminated Barry Town of Wales after a goalless draw away from home and a 3-2 home win. Ten years later, they eliminated Keflavik of Iceland with a 5-2 aggregate score in the UEFA Europa League. Two years ago, they eliminated Tre Fiori of San Marino with a 5-1 aggregate score in the UEFA Champions League and last year FC Lusitans of Andorra with a 9-0 aggregate score in the same competition. In 2011/12, Valletta eliminated SP Tre Fiori with a 3-0 win in San Marino and a 2-1 win at the Hibernians Stadium. This summer, they eliminated SP La Fiorita with a 4-0 aggregate score after a 3-0 win in San Marino and a 1-0 win at the Centenary Stadium.
FC Minsk are currently seventh in the Belarus Premier League with 23 points from eighteen matches after a 1-1 draw with Dinamo Brest away from home on Sunday.
The club, which was only formed in 2006, took part in UEFA competitions only once, in season 2011/12 when they eliminated AZAL Baku of Azerbaijan with a 3-2 aggregate score in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League, losing 2-5 on aggregate to Gaziantepspor of Turkey in the second round.
If Valletta qualify, they would face the winner of the clash between Norwegian side Rosenborg BK and St. Johnstone of Scotland. The first leg would be played at Ta’ Qali.
St. Johnstone won the first leg in Trondheim, Norway 1-0.