The BOV Premier League 2015/16 kicks-off on Friday with four matches – two at the Hibernians and two at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.
Out of the twelve Premier League clubs, only three have confirmed their coach – champions Hibernians with Branko Nisevic, Balzan with Oliver Spiteri and Sliema with Stephen Azzopardi. The biggest changes however are in terms of foreign players.
This will be the first campaign following the introduction of a maximum of seven foreigners on the field of play. This change led most Premier League clubs to sign new foreign players. Transfers of local players, on the other hand, were negligible.
Birkirkara vs Naxxar Lions, kick-off 18:30 at Hibernians Stadium
In the first match at the Hibernians Stadium, FA Trophy winners Birkirkara take on Naxxar Lions.
Along with Hibernians, Birkirkara start as one of the main favourites for the championship. Giovanni Tedesco replaced Paul Zammit as the new coach while new signings included Fabrizio Miccoli, Marcelina Emerson, Vito Plut, Edin Murga, Juan Quero, Frank Temile and young duo Cain Attard and goalkeeper Philip Schranz. Terence Vella is back after a one-year loan with Naxxar. The only players to leave were Eliandro and Rafael Ledesma while Liliu is set to stay after being reportedly on the way to join a club in Hungary.
Naxxar, on the other hand, have completely different objectives as they target retaining their Premier League status. They replaced Jesmond Zerafa with Stefano Grima as their new coach. They signed Ishmael Grech from Mosta, Emiliano Lattes, Luca Lodetti, Armando Vieira dos Santos, Moses Gnenegbe, Oussou Sidoine, Richard Cardozo and Arya Haghighi.
Sliema Wanderers vs Tarxien Rainbows, kick-off 20:30 at Hibernians Stadium
Both Sliema and Tarxien are eager to bounce back after unimpressive campaigns last season. The Blues have confirmed Stephen Azzopardi as coach and had a rather low-key transfer campaign. They signed Luke Dimech from Valletta, Rafael Ledesma from Birkirkara and Gary Muir from Floriana and Albanian Under-21 goalkeeper Entonjo Elezaj.
Tarxien, on the other hand, have appointed former Melita and Pembroke coach Jacques Scerri. Roderick Bajada is back after a one-year spell with Pembroke. Goalkeeper Andrea Cassar also joins the club from Pembroke. Other new signings include Brazilians Danilo Santos, Bruno de Oliveira, Joao Pedro Oliveira Santos and Alex da Paixao ‘Lekao’.
Qormi vs Pembroke Athleta, kick-off 18:30 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
In the first match at the Victor Tedesco Stadium, Qormi take on newly-promoted St. Andrews. A cloud of uncertainty surrounds Qormi as the club’s financial situation. They appointed Jesmond Zerafa as their new coach while their main signing was that of Carlo Gordon Monti who played for Zebbug last season.
Pembroke Athleta have appointed Winston Muscat as their new coach. They signed several foreign players to strengthen their squad including Andrei Coblis of San Gwann, Gustavo Villalobos and Zoran Levnajic of Qormi, Paltemio Barbetti of Zebbug together with Americans Gibson Bardley, Austin Martz, Kyle O’Brien, James Togbah
and Italians Giacomo Ferri and Alessandro Talloru. Owen Bugeja joined the club from Qormi.
St. Andrews vs Valletta, kick-off 20:45 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
The other newly-promoted side – St. Andrews – face Valletta in the other game. Under the guidance of new coach Wayne Attard, the Saints will be focussing on club products although they signed Italians Nicola Andreis, Luca Cosmai, Christopher De Nguidjol and Diego Rossetto in their bid to strengthen the squad.
Valletta, on the other hand, aim at bouncing back from a disappointing season. Following the appointment of Paul Zammit as the new coach, they signed two former players, Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao and Njongo Lobe Priso Doding. The club also signed Argentinian defender Juan Cruz Gill, Italian midfielder Claudio Pani and Nigerian striker Callistus Uchenna Umeh who have all made their debut in the UEFA Europa League. Since then, they secured the services of goalkeeper Henry Bonello on loan from Sliema Wanderers following a spell with Hibernians, Brazilian defender Romeu Pericles Romao and Argentinian striker Federico Falcone.