Valletta will be aiming for a good result in Latham Park on Thursday as they face Newtown AFC in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round, kick-off at 20:15.
Wales brings back memories of the Citizens’ first ever qualification when they eliminated Barry Town from the UEFA Champions League in 1999 following a goalless draw in Wales and 3-2 win at Ta’ Qali.
Last season, Valletta ended empty-handed, taking the runner-up spot in the BOV Premier League. This led to wholesale changes in the squad and the appointment of Paul Zammit as the new coach. Zammit returns with the club after a six-year spell with Birkirkara.
Almost all foreigners who were on the books of the club last season were released, apart from goalkeeper Pietro Marino and Abdelkarim Nafti. Luke Dimech was not retained, Ryan Fenech moved to Balzan while Steve Borg is on the verge of joining Aris Limassol in Cyprus.
On the other hand, the Citizens signed no less than eight new foreign players, namely Ukrainian goalkeeper Okeksandr Musiyenko, Moldovan defender Maxim Focsa, Argentine defender Juan Cruz Gill, Italian midfielder Claudio Pani and strikers Njongo Priso from Cameroon, Thierry Fidjeu Tazameta from the Equatorial Guinea, Uchenna Umeh from Nigeria and Brazilian Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao. Priso had already played for Valletta, apart from Msida; Jhonnattann had a short spell with the Citizens before playing for two years with Birkirkara while Tazameta had played for one season in Gozo with Xewkija Tigers.
The club also welcomed players who were on loan, namely Dyson Falzon, Luke Montebello and Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza.
For this game, coach Paul Zammit could not field his best formation as Jonathan Caruana and Roderick Briffa are suspended, Shaun Bajada is on honeymoon while Priso is ruled out injured.
Valletta’s opponents, Newtown Association Football Club are a Welsh Football Club who play in the Welsh Premier League. Newtown AFC are one of only three clubs that can claim unbroken membership of the league since its formation in 1992.
The club was founded in 1875 as Newtown White Stars, and were one of the founder members of the Football Association of Wales. Newtown White Stars, which appeared in the first ever Welsh Cup match on 13 October 1877, is believed to have merged with Newtown Excelsior to form the current Newtown AFC in time to be Welsh Cup finalists in 1885 and 1888.
This is only their third participation in a UEFA competition. They took part in the UEFA Cup 1996/97 when they were eliminated by Skonto Riga of Latvia with a 1-7 aggregate score and then in the UEFA Cup 1998/99 when they lost to Wisla Krakow with a 0–7 aggregate score.
Last season, Newtown AFC placed sixth in the Welsh Premier League Championship Pool to secure a place in the play-offs where they defeated Aberystwyth Town 2-1. In the Welsh Cup, they reached the final but lost 0-2 to champions The New Saints.
The second leg between Valletta and Newtown AFC is scheduled for July 9. The winner would face F.C. København of Denmark in the second qualifying round on July 16 and 23.