Mosta will be aiming for a good performance and a positive result as they host FK Spartak Trnava of Slovakia in the first leg of the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League at the Centenary Stadium on Thursday, kick-off at 17:45.
This will be a historic game for the Blues as they make their first appearance in a European competition. Mosta were lying in sixth place in the BOV Premier League when the league was interrupted and eventually terminated due to a ban by health authorities on organised sports. However with champions Hamrun Spartans being denied access to the UEFA Champions League by UEFA and with Sliema Wanderers withdrawing their application for a UEFA licence, Mosta were next in line for a spot in the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League.
The match between Mosta and Spartak Trnava will effectively be the first game from this new competition as another two matches are scheduled to be played later on the day and the remaining first legs would be played on Thursdays.
Another ‘novelty’ will be the return of fans to the stadium. In fact, two hundred spectators will be allowed inside the Centenary Stadium. Following amendments to the COVID restrictions, each section within a venue can host up to hundred people as long as there are separate entrance and exit for each section. Tickets were immediately sold out.
Addressing the media on Monday, technical director Mario Muscat said that on his appointment last year, the objective was to turn the club from one fighting against relegation to one who could challenge for a place in European competitions as part of a three-year plan.
“We wanted to have a competitive team and Mosta had one of the best ever campaigns over the past ten years. Although we made it to European football, following the exclusion of Hamrun, I think we deserve to be here, considering that teams like Valletta, Balzan and Floriana – clubs which are well established and with a bigger budget than us – were behind us in the table. “
“This success is all thanks to the hard work of the administration and technical staff and especially the players who worked hard for the past twelve months.”
Mario Muscat said that following the appointment of an experienced coach like Joe Grech, who will give the necessary input together with the rest of the technical staff, they will work hard towards achieving the club’s objectives.
The Mosta FC technical director admitted the clash with Spartak Trnava will be a difficult one but is confident that with the way the team prepared for this game, Mosta can achieve a positive result.
“This is our first time in a European competition. We know Spartak are a very good team and know that three years ago, they made it to the group stage (of the UEFA Europa League). But we know that, especially in the home game, we could give them a good run for their money. The coaching staff and the players worked hard and our objective for the game is to get a positive result so that in Trnava we would still have all to play for.”
Captain Tyrone Farrugia said the team was looking forward for this game as this was a new experience for the club. He said that Mosta were well-aware of this challenge posed by Spartak, considering that they were among the strongest sides in the draw. However, he thinks Mosta could give any team a hard time.
Head-coach Joe Grech, who had worked at Mosta as assistant coach with Mark Miller, said that there was great enthusiasm within the Mosta camp after making history as they are set to participate for the first time in a European club competition. He said there is a great bond between the technical staff, the players and the committee and they are all looking forward for this game, aiming for a good performance and hopefully a good result which keeps them in contention ahead of the second leg.
The squad went through a number of changes since last season following the departure of Bojan Kaljevic who joined Balzan and Divine Naah who moved to FK Kauno Žalgiris in Lithuania. Johann Bezzina and Kevin Tulimieri returned with Birkirkara and Valletta respectively after spending last season on loan with the club while the contract of Matias Muchardi expired.
New arrivals include experienced defender Romeu Romao, Serbian midfielder Ivan Doric, young midfielders Luis Carlos Riascos Torres and William Donkin and young Nigerian forward Johnson Kalu Nsumoh.
Technical director Mario Muscat said the club had been working on the transfers even before it was confirmed that they would participating in the UEFA Europa Conference League. He said that following the departure of a number of players, the arrival of Ivan Doric and Luis Riascos strengthened the midfield.
Team manager Jason Vella said that due to COVID restrictions, it was not possible to bring players from third world countries and therefore had to rely on players from European countries or others already based in Malta. He added that the transfer campaign for this coming season is not over yet.
Referring to Johnson Nsumoh, who spent the last eighteen months with Spartak Trnava, head coach Joe Grech said he was a young player with a good margin to improve and he should prove to be an asset for the club. Mario Muscat added that the club offered him a four-year deal since they believed he could improve and become a better footballer.
With the exception of Andrei Spiteri, who sustained a slight injury, all the players will be available for selection.
With regards to the condition of the players, head coach Joe Grech admitted that there were difficulties due to the fact that the league was interrupted in March, the fact that foreign players were still abroad, quarantine and the struggle to find opponents for friendly matches. However Grech said that the performance in the two friendlies they played against Hibernians and Birkirkara was quite satisfactory.
Mosta’s opponents on Tuesday, Spartak Trnava, are no new face for local teams. In fact, this will be their fifth clash with a Maltese club in a UEFA club competition. In 1969/70, they defeated Hibernians with a 6-2 aggregate score in the first round of the Champions Cup, In 1997/98, they eliminated Birkirkara from the UEFA Cup first qualifying round, beating them with a 4-1 aggregate score. In 2014/15, they were drawn again with Hibernians in the first qualifying round of the Europa League beating them with a 9-2 aggregate score while two years later, they were paired with the Paolites once again in the UEFA Europa League, this time beating them with a 6-0 aggregate score.
Being founded in 1923, they are one of the most successful clubs in the country, having won the Czechoslovak First League five times and the Czechoslovak Cup on four occasions, and reaching the semi-final of the European Cup once and the quarter-final twice. More recently, the club won the Slovak league title in 2018 and Slovak cup in 2019 and in 2018/19, they reached the group stage of the UEFA Europa League. They finished third in the Slovak Super Liga last season.
The second leg will be played on Thursday 15 at the Štadión Antona Malatinského in Trnava.
The winner of this two-legged tie will face Sepsi OSK Sfantu Gheorghe of Romania in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League.