Floriana face Linfield in Belfast

Floriana face the champions of Northern Ireland, Linfield Football Club, in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast on Thursday, kick-off at 20:45.

The Greens entered the Champions Path of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round after being eliminated from the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round following a 0-2 defeat to CFR Cluj.

Linfield, on the other hand, entered the UEFA Champions League preliminary round where they eliminated Tre Fiori of San Marino with a 2-0 win and a 3-0 win by default over Drita of Kosovo after two Drita players tested positive for COVID-19. In the first qualifying round, they lost 0-1 to Legia Warsaw of Poland.

The club was founded in 1886 and are by far, the most successful club in Northern Ireland. They won the Irish League championship 54 times, the Irish Cup 43 times, the Irish League Cup ten times and the County Antrim Shield 43 times.

As Northern Ireland’s most dominant club side, Linfield have been regular campaigners in European football. The club first participated in European competition in 1959 against Göteborg in the 1959/60 European Cup. Their most notable achievement in European competition to date is reaching the quarter-finals of the 1966/67 European Cup.

In recent years, their best achievement was reaching the play-off round of the UEFA Europa League last summer when they eliminated HB Torhsavn and Sutjeska of Montenegro but were ousted by Qarabagh on the away-goals rule. 

Floriana never went past a second round in a European competition. In 1993, they had eliminated Ekranas of Lithuania with a 2-0 aggregate score and in 1999, they eliminated Aberystwyth Town of Wales. However, on both occasions, they lost in the second round.

Reaching the third round of the competition would therefore be a huge achievement for the Greens after being crowned champions for the first time in seventeen years as they were lying on top the BOV Premier League table before the league was suspended and eventually terminated by the Executive Committee of the Malta Football Association.

Qualifying round matches are being played in single legs and therefore, extra time and a penalty shoot-out will determine the winner if necessary. The winner advances to the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round where they would host either Flora Tallinn of Estonia or KR Reykjavík of Iceland on September 24.