Hamrun Spartans will be making a return to European football after a thirty-year long absence on Thursday as they entertain Alashkert FC of Armenia at the Republican Stadium ‘Vazgen Sargsyan’ in Yerevan in the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League first qualifying round, kick-off at 17:00.
After securing third place last season, the Spartans’ squad went through a complete overhaul with no less than eleven new signings and the return of Matthew Guillaumier following a spell with Siena in Italy. The new signings include defenders Rodrigo Callegari Torre, Vinicius Freitas, Ognjen Bjelicic and Malta international Ryan Camenzuli, midfielders Bruno Ederson Domingos, Roko Prsa and Mousa Balla Sowe and forwards Elvis Sukisa Mashike, Igor Nedeljkovic and Jonny Robert do Nascimento Torres apart from Gozitan duo Steve Sultana and Stefan Cassar.
Obtaining a result which would keep alive their chances ahead of the second leg should be the main objective of coach Branko Nisevic.
Alashkert FC of Armenia, are based in Yerevan and were founded in 1990 and after folding in 2000, re-founded in 2011. They won the Armenian Premier League championship four times and the Armenian Cup once. Last season, they finished third in the Premier League, behind champions Pyunik and runners-up Ararat-Armenia
They have been participating in European football since 2015/16 and their best achievement was last season when they made it to the group stage of the UEFA Europa Conference League. They eliminated Connah’s Quay Nomads of Wales but were then eliminated by Sheriff Tiraspol from the UEFA Champions League, entered the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League and eliminated Kairat of Kazakhstan but were later eliminated by Rangers in the play-off round to secure a place in the group stage of the Europa Conference League.
The only encounter between a Maltese club and another one from Armenia was in season 2015/16 when Birkirkara eliminated Ulisses Yerevan from the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round.
The second leg between Hamrun Spartans and Alashkert will be played at the Centenary Stadium on Thursday 14 at 20:00. Winners advance to the UEFA Europa Conference League second qualifying round where they would face FK Velez Mostar of Bosnia and Herzegovina.