Champions Valletta will be hoping to end the season in style as they take on rivals Birkirkara in the final of the FA Trophy, powered by Boost Diesel, on Saturday, kick-off at 17:00.
Despite a far from impressive campaign, the Citizens came from behind to claim their twenty fourth championship, maintaining an unbeaten streak since mid-December. On Saturday, they seek their fourteenth FA Trophy win. They reached the final twenty six times, the last time being four years ago when they defeated Sliema Wanderers 1-0.
Birkirkara, on the other hand, reached the final ten times and after finishing on the losing end in the first five times, they won their last five finals, the last being in 2-15 when they beat Hibernians 2-0. Winning the FA Trophy would be a big achievement for the Stripes, for a team which was still ninth in the BOV Premier League by mid-November although they managed to clinch fourth place and secure a place in the UEFA Europa League this summer.
To reach this stage, Birkirkara defeated Santa Lucia 5-0, San Gwann 2-1 after extra-time, Qrendi 3-0 and Sliema Wanderers on penalties following a 1-1 draw at the end of extra-time while Valletta beat Senglea Athletic 2-0, Pietà Hotspurs 1-0, Zejtun Corinthians 2-0 and Balzan 2-1.
Photo: Copyright © domenic aquilina/MFA
Addressing the media on Friday, Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit thanked the players for their sacrifices throughout a season of ups and downs and said that thanks to the support of their supporters and the committee they achieved a place in the UEFA Europa League – something which seemed impossible after such a disastrous start. Zammit added that reaching the final was a great gift for the Birkirkara supporters and now that the team will be facing the strongest side, they need to play a perfect game and commit no mistakes in order to emerge as winners.
Valletta coach Danilo Doncic said that in such a game, there are no favourites but believes that his players were in excellent form to take on the challenge offered by Birkirkara. He said that although he experienced such important clashes as a player, this was his first experience as a coach. Doncic added that Valletta are looking forward to ending the season in style by winning the FA Trophy and hence the double.
Birkirkara captain Nikola Vukanac said that considering how things turned out this season, their main objective was that of securing a spot in the UEFA Europa League but now that they managed to reach this stage, they hope to end the season with a bang by winning the FA Trophy.
On the other hand, Valletta goalkeeper Henry Bonello said that he and his colleagues were honoured to play in this final which would hopefully be played in front of a big crowd. He said he is sure both sides will be all out to win the trophy but for Valletta, this would be more meaningful as winning the double is never an easy feat.
Valletta and Birkirkara met twice this season with the Citizens winning the first round clash 3-0 but the second round clash ended in a goalless draw.
Meanwhile the Malta Football Association announced the following ticketing, traffic and crowd management arrangements for the FA Trophy final.
The gates will open at 15:30 and the stand allocations are as follows:
Birkirkara – West A and Millennium F
Valletta – West C and Millennium D
Nurseries – North Stand
• All the tickets for the West Stand sectors allocated to the clubs have been sold.
• The police will set up a buffer zone along the National Stadium ring road, from the Training Grounds area to the Millennium Stand roundabout (next to the MFCC entrance).
• Birkirkara supporters will be allocated the West car park (enclosure) and the adjacent road leading to Durumblat road. The Birkirkara fans are to reach the National Stadium from the Mosta area (Durumblat). Birkirkara supporters making their way to the Stadium on double-decker buses/coaches have allocated parking behind the North Stand, facing the Training Grounds so as to exit from Durumblat Road after the game.
• Valletta supporters are to park their vehicles along the road in front of the Millennium Stand. They are to make their way to the National Stadium through Attard either via Mdina Road or in the direction of St Catherine’s Home in Pitkali Road. Double-decker buses/coaches carrying Valletta fans have allocated parking behind the South Stand, facing the MFA Gym so as to exit from the Żebbuġ area.
• These traffic and parking arrangements have been agreed by the Police, Malta FA and the respective clubs.
• The Malta FA urges the fans to follow the instructions given by the police on matchday.