Floriana FC will be hoping to make history on Thursday as they host FC Flora Tallinn of Estonia in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League champions path at the National Stadium, kick-off at 19:00.
The Greens were eliminated by CFR Cluj of Romania with a 0-2 score in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League but they bounced back with a 1-0 win away from home over Linfield FC of Northern Ireland in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League last week.
Floriana are only the third Maltese team to play in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League after Birkirkara in season 2016/17 who eliminated Siroki Brijeg and Hearts in the previous rounds but lost to Krasnodar in this stage and Valletta last season who eliminated Dudelange and lost to Ferencvaros in the Champions League and then Astana in the UEFA Europa League.
Therefore if Floriana manage to eliminate Flora Tallinn, they would be the first Maltese club to make it to the Play-Off stage of a European competition. A clash away from home to Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday October 1st awaits the winner.
Addressing a media conference on Wednesday, Floriana coach Vicenzo Potenza said that this game was of an extraordinary importance for the club as this could crown a dream of doing something no Maltese club has achieved so far.
“I believe my players have the potential to reach this objective. Keeping maximum concentration throughout the whole ninety minutes is of utmost importance as our opponents have some quality players and they play good football.”
“We are highly motivated because moving the furthest possible in Europe is an objective we have been aiming for. We are now in a sort of semi-final and reaching the next stage would be fantastic … a historical achievement and a dream. But between us and this dream lies Flora Tallinn which are a young quality squad and therefore we need to be at our best.
The game against Flora Tallinn is the third in a week for the Greens.
“Obviously this is not ideal at this early stage but we will make up for this by playing our hearts out. We started our preparation on July 1st and there were players who had some problems with regards to the physical conditions. We spent months without playing a single game and now the first injuries start to crop up.”
“I believe that often victories eliminate fatigue and winning helps to win even more. For us this is like a semi-final and so we need to forget immediately about fatigue and focus on being fully concentrated throughout the whole ninety minutes despite our physical condition which cannot be compared to theirs.”
Flora Tallinn, in fact, have already played twenty league matches and three cup matches since May apart from the UEFA Champions League match lost on penalties to FK Suduva of Lithuania and the UEFA Europa League win over KR Reykjavik last week. They lead the way in the Estonian Meistriliiga with 55 points from 20 matches, thirteen ahead of second-placed Paide. They won eighteen matches, dropping only five points in a draw and one loss.
“Our squad is made up of 24 players, including four players from the Youths team. On Sunday, the players who played on Sunday showed that they are strong enough and I am proud of them and grateful to the club for putting these players at my disposal. “
“For me, every day is a new day. When I wake up in the morning, I need to achieve new objectives and forget what has been achieved the day before. I always invite the players to aim high. We started this project last year and we have just started our second year. I believe Floriana FC showed that the club is back where it deserves to be.”
“I am proud of the players. We do not need to aim just for a good performance but fight to reach our objective. Now that I am fifty years old, if ten years ago, someone would have told me that I would have such an opportunity, I would have not believed him. Most probably we would realise the experience that what we are living now in five, six years’ time. Together with the club and our supporters, we are doing something incredible and we need to give our very best to make history. That is what we, together with president Riccardo Gaucci and Peter Agius, had promised to try to do. We are close to doing it but are still ninety minutes away. “
Captain Jurgen Pisani added “The atmosphere within the Floriana clan right now is great. Wins bring joy. After the Linfield game, we knew that we had a difficult league game against Gzira but the team managed to forget the game in Northern Ireland and focus on the Gzira game. Now we are fully focussed on this game. “
“This is a fine opportunity for the club and for us as players if we manage to reach the next round. As players and as a club, we would achieve something historic for football in Malta. A good reward for all the sacrifices we do throughout the year. “
FC Flora Tallinn are one of two clubs which have never been relegated from the Estonian top division. They have won more trophies than any other club in Estonian football, with a record 12 league titles, eight Cups and a record ten Super Cups. Although Flora Tallinn have been taking part in European competitions since 1994, this is only the first time they reached the third qualifying round of a European competition.
Croatian giants HNK Dinamo Zagreb, who reached the group stage of the UEFA Champions League last season, await the winner in the play-off round. The match would be played in Zagreb on October 1.
The match will be broadcast on TVM2.