Birkirkara target good performance in Russia

bkara-krasnodar160728JonBBirkirkara will be aiming for a good performance as they face FC Krasnodar in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round at the Kuban Stadium in Krasnodar on Thursday, kick-off at 18:30.

In the first leg last week, the visitors managed to take the lead in stoppage time before the end of the first half, adding another two goals in the final fifteen minutes. A 3-0 win which leave no doubts on which side would make it to the play-off stage.

Photo: Copyright © Jonathan Bugeja

Therefore at this point, Birkirkara, who established a record of being the first Maltese team to play in the third round of a UEFA competition after eliminating NK Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia Herzegovina and Heart of Midlothian of Scotland in the first two rounds, could only aim at giving their opponents a hard time.

Birkirkara coach Drazen Besek is only expected to make slight changes to the team with a possible change being the inclusion of Mislav Andjelkovic in the starting line-up, replacing Dejan Djordjevic.

Although FC Krasnodar are a relatively new club as they were founded in 2008, they took part in UEFA competitions twice. They took part in the UEFA Europa League in season 2014/15 and successfully completed three Europa League qualification phases after defeating Sillamäe Kalev, Diósgyőr and Real Sociedad on aggregate. The team then advanced to the Group Stage, where they were drawn into Group H alongside Lille, Wolfsburg and Everton, eventually finishing third.

Last year, they reached the Europa League group stage for the second time in a row. Their group consisted of Borussia Dormund, PAOK and Gabala. They won all their home games and even pulled off a surprising 1–0 win against Dortmund. They finished first with four wins (1–0 against Dortmund, 2–1 against PAOK, 2–1 and 3–0 against Gabala), one draw (0–0 against PAOK) and one loss (1–2 against Dortmund). They were eliminated in the round of 32 by Sparta Prague.

Their squad includes five players who played in the EURO 2016. These are Sweden’s Andreas Granqvist, Iceland’s Ragnar Sigurdsson – scorer of a goal against England, Poland’s Artur Jedrzejczyk and Russia’s Pavel Mamaev and Fedor Smolov. Dmitri Torbinski was also a member of the Russian squad but did not play any games.

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