Hamrun Spartans host Ferencvaros in the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round at the National Stadium on Thursday, kick-off at 19:30.
After being eliminated by Maccabi Haifa of Israel from the UEFA Champions League, the Spartans entered the UEFA Europa Conference League second qualifying round, eliminating Dinamo Tbilisi of Georgia thanks to a 2-1 win at Ta’ Qali and a 1-0 win in Tbilisi.
In Tbilisi, Hamrun played for the whole of the second half in ten men after Uros Djuranovic – the scorer of the only goal – was sent off.
Commenting on the game, coach Luciano Zauri said “In the first half, although we know how strong they are, we could have done better in some situations where we gifted the ball to our opponents. However, the desire to do well and the determination shown by our players was incredible.”
With regards to the incident in the tunnel at the end of the first half which saw Djuranovic sent off along with the coach of Dinamo Tbilisi, Zauri said “We were all heading to the dressing rooms and it is hard to understand how out of forty-fifty persons in the tunnel, he was singled out. However, I am sure that who will replace him on Thursday will do a great job. “
The Hamrun Spartans coach is well aware of the strength of their opponents.
“Ferencvaros are a very strong team but even in the previous round (against Dinamo Tbilisi), we were the underdogs. However we are not afraid of this. We know our qualities and our strength although we are well aware of the strength of our opponents. They have several highly-talented and fast offensive players. They have a complete squad.”
“I think Ferencvaros are stronger than Dinamo Tbilisi. However they have a similar style of play. We will probably adopt the same system we used in the previous round. Up front, they are more talented and therefore we would need to defend against technically gifted and fast forwards. We know that in Europe we would face such teams but this is the beauty of playing European football.”
When asked regarding his plans for the first leg, Zauri said “We never plan to defend, not even with Maccabi Haifa. However when you opponent is good enough to put you under pressure, you have to defend. In games, there are moments when you have to defend and others when you have to attack … the important thing is to make the most out of the opportunities you have. “
Croatian midfielder Roko Prsa said that now that most players have been playing together for two years, they were understanding each other better. Prsa added that not much had changed from last year with regards to their style of play although now the team tends to attack more.
The Croatian midfielder added that the team showed a lot of character in Tbilisi, especially after having a player sent off, and the players worked hard for each other to secure qualification and now look forward to repeating the same feat against Ferencvaros.
Like Hamrun Spartans, Hungarian champions Ferencvaros entered the UEFA Champions League 2023/24 first qualifying round but after a goalless draw with KI in the Faroe Islands, they suffered a shock 0-3 defeat at home. They entered the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League, defeating Shamrock Rovers 4-0 at home and 2-0 away from home.
The Hungarians already faced four Maltese clubs in UEFA club competitions.
In 1972, they eliminated Floriana with a 6-1 aggregate score in the Cup Winners Cup. In 2003, they eliminated Birkirkara from the first qualifying round of the UEFA Cup with a 6-0 aggregate score. In 2014, Sliema Wanderers held Ferencvaros in a 1-1 draw at home but lost 2-1 away from home to bow out of the UEFA Europa League while in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League in 2019, Ferencvaros defeated Valletta 3-1 in Budapest with Valletta holding them in a 1-1 draw at home.
Ferencvárosi Torna Club, commonly known as Ferencváros, were founded in 1899 and are based in Budapest.
Ferencvaros won the championship 34 times, including the last five championships and the Magyar Kupa 24 times. They won the 1964–65 edition of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and reached the final of the same competition in 1968, when they lost to Leeds United, as well as the final in the 1974–75 season of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, losing to Dynamo Kyiv.
They reached the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in 1995/96 and 2020/21, the UEFA Cup 2004/05, the UEFA Europa League 2019/20 and 2020/21 and the Round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League in 2022/23.
The second leg will be held at the Groupama Arena on August 17. The winner of this two-legged tie will be facing the loser in the UEFA Europa League clash between FK Žalgiris Vilnius of Lithuania and BK Häcken of Sweden.