Champions Valletta will be aiming for a good performance and hopefully a good result as they face FK Kukësi of Albania in the first leg of the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League at the Loro Boriçi Stadium in Shkoder, kick-off at 19:00.
Considering that Maltese clubs have never eliminated clubs from Albania, this will be no easy task but the Citizens will be all out to get a good result which would maintain alive hopes of making it in next week’s second leg which will be held at the Centenary Stadium on Tuesday.
Since last season, Valletta made few changes but the most notable addition is that of Italian striker Mario Fontanella – one of the most prolific strikers over the past three years with eternal rivals Floriana. The other two new players in the squad are Romanian winger Bogdan Gavrila and goalkeeper Yenz Cini.
Romeu Romao, Denni Rocha dos Santos, Uchenna Umeh, Michael Mifsud, Albert Prosa and goalkeeper Nicky Vella all moved elsewhere.
Futboll Klub Kukësi are based in the city of Kukës. The club played in the lower divisions for much of its history since 1930, prior to their 2012 promotion to the Albanian Superliga, where they have finished as runners up four times – in 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2017/8. They won the championship in 2016/17, the Albanian Cup in 2015/16 and the Super Cup in 2016.
Last season, they finished as runners-up in the Albanian Superliga, nine points behind champions Skënderbeu Korçë but they replace them in the Champions League as the latter received a 10-year ban for match fixing.
In their first adventure in the UEFA Europa League in 2013/14, they eliminated Flora Tallinn on the away goals rule, Sarajevo with a 3-2 aggregate score and Metalurh Donetsk 2-1 on aggregate but were eliminated by Trabzonspor in the Play-Off. The following season, they had an early exit from the Europa League after losing narrowly to Kairat. In 2015/16, they eliminated Torpedo-BelAZ Zhodino and Mladost Podgorica but lost to Legia Warsaw. In 2016/17, they eliminated Rudar Pljevlja but exited the second qualifying round after losing to Austria Wien. Last year, they took part in the UEFA Champions League for the first time but despite a 2-1 win at home, they lost 0-1 away from home to FC Sheriff Tiraspol to lose with the away goals rule.
The winners of the first qualifying round ties move on to the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round while the losers would move to the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.
The winners will play the winners of Olimpija Ljubljana/Qarabağ in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League while the losers meet the losers of Spartak Trnava/Zrinjski in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.