Stripes host NK Široki Brijeg with second qualifying round place in mind

Birkirkara host NK Široki Brijeg of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round at the Hibernians Stadium on Tuesday, kick-off at 17:45.

The Stripes obtained a prestigious 1-1 draw in the first leg away from home and are therefore looking forward to another positive result on Tuesday which would enable them to reach a further round in a UEFA competition for a fourth time in the history of the club as they celebrate twenty years of constant participation in Europe.

They defeated Lokomotiv Tbilisi of Georgia in the qualifying round of the UEFA Cup in 2001 on the away goals rule, FC Santa Coloma of Andorra with a 7-3 aggregate score in the Champions League in 2010 and last year, Ulisses of Armenia 3-1 in the Europa League. Birkirkara were then eliminated by West Ham on penalties.

Addressing the media on Monday, Birkirkara coach Drazen Besek said that after the first leg, everyone was expecting them to move on to the next round but to achieve a positive result, they had to be disciplined and show team spirit. The Croatian coach went on to say that the team will be giving its best to achieve a good result.

Besek took over as coach of Birkirkara in January. He said that he was glad that in a short time, he players accepted his work and performed well.

“We changed a lot of players and there were new signings this summer. We built a good team to achieve good results in Europe and then in the domestic competitions,” said Besek.

Captain Gareth Sciberras said the players were determined to reach the next round. He said the players were all working hard to achieve success.

Sciberras is not worried about the early kick-off time, saying that although it was not ideal for a football match, their opponents were coming from a climate which is similar to ours and therefore the heat will not be a determining factor.

Besek is not expected to make changes from the team which held Široki Brijeg in a 1-1 draw in the first leg when Cain Attard put them ahead with the hosts levelling matters just before half-time. They are therefore expected to start with Kopric in goal, Attard, Sciberras, Jovic and Bubalovic in defence, Camenzuli, Scicluna, Marcelina and Zerafa in midfield, Plut and Dimitrov in attack.

Like Birkirkara, NK Široki Brijeg has been taking part regularly in UEFA competitions since season 2002/03. Their best run was in the UEFA Cup 2005/06 when they reached the first round proper of the UEFA Cup after defeating Teuta of Albania and Zeta of Serbia & Montenegro. Only twice, they failed to make it to a second round in a UEFA competition.

Birkirkara or Široki Brijeg will take on the winner of the clash between FC Infonet (Estonia) or Heart of Midlothian (Scotland). Hearts won the first leg 2-1.