A new women’s football season is set to start as the 2023/2024 Assikura Women’s League gets underway on Thursday with Birkirkara eyeing a sixth consecutive title.
This year’s revamped campaign will see the national championship start in August instead of September while the eight teams will play a total of 23 games instead of 18.
A new format has been implemented as well, as the eight teams will play against each other in a round-robin format in the opening couple of rounds. Following these two rounds, the top four teams will play an additional three games against each other while the same format will be used for the bottom four teams as well.
Another important change to the women’s league has been the shifting of fixtures from midweek to weekends with the objective of drawing more public to the local stadia.
Six of last year’s seven teams will be participating in this year’s championship as well with the newest additions being both Valletta and Lija Athletic. The Lilywhites have merged with Raiders and will be playing under the name of Valletta. On the other hand, Lija Athletic will be playing on their own after parting ways with Raiders who were based there in recent years.
Birkirkara, winners of their 11th title last season, launch their title defense against Lija this Thursday.
The Stripes, still under the guidance of the confirmed Jose Borg, have made some important changes to their squad.
Clinical forward Sara Saliba left the Maltese champions to embark in her first foreign spell after joining Italy’s Pomigliano while January’s marquee signing Brisa Campos returned to Argentina’s Huracan. Sofia Iaderosa, another forward, also parted ways with Birkirkara as she moved to Georgia at Samegrelo while Italian winger Gaia Milan returned to her native country to put pen to paper on a deal with Serie B side Cesena.
Birkirkara made sure to reinforce their offensive department with the arrival of forward Francesca Chircop from Mġarr United. They also brought in young Uruguayan playmaker Edith Garcia and American midfielders Caitlin Rodgers and Arianna Del Moral.
The Maltese champions will be soon representing Malta in this year’s Women’s Champions League when they host Montenegro’s Breznica on September 6.
Lija Athletic, on their part, have underwent a busy a transfer market to make sure to assemble a competitive squad. They made sure to inject their squad with a lot of experience as they brought in former Raiders players Sarah Caruana and Leanne Micallef together with Simone Buttigieg, who was on the books of Swieqi United.
Last year’s runners-up and winners of the domestic cup, Swieqi United are expected to mount another title challenge and try to dethrone Birkirkara this time around.
The Owls will be coached by former Malta international goalkeeper Saviour Darmanin who replaced Dutch coach Judith Kuipers. In recent days, Swieqi sent goalkeeper Cynthia Konlan on loan to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal replacing her with Corinthians’ goalkeeper Patricia Araujo.
Swieqi have also revamped their offensive department with the arrivals Karima Abdulai of Ghana and Kennedy Metzger of the United States. They replace the departed Fernanda Peinado, on the brink of joining Mġarr United, and Tatiana Dabney who went to ply her trade in Poland.
Ghana player Rebecca Atinga also left the club as she swapped Maltese football for the Israeli championship. Defender Rafanny Mendoza and forward Salamatu Abdulai are expected to continue their Swieqi adventure this season.
They take on Mtarfa in their season opener with the latter set to be coached by Simon Spiteri for another season.
Mtarfa will be looking to improve on last year’s tally of six points and they made sure to add more quality to their squad with the arrivals of foreign players such as Alice Ferrari from Italy and Laura Tobon from Colombia.
On Friday, an ambitious Mġarr United side take on San Ġwann as the Greens are eyeing a potential title challenge after their summer signings.
Michael Mangion’s side – confirmed for another year at the helm of the club – brought in promising goalkeeper Giulia D’Antuono, Moldova international Anastasia Sivolobova, Brazilian playmaker Joelma, confirmed winger Yulya Carella and are expected to add at least two more names besides ex-Swieqi Peinado.
San Ġwann, led by Julian Camilleri who takes over from Raymond Sant, are also expected to make some important signings including Moroccan duo Tourki Chaaima and Oumaima Mhalli who last year had joined Mġarr for their first Maltese spell.
Elsewhere, Hibernians and Valletta take on each other on Matchday 1 this Saturday.
The Paolites, once again coached by Keith Gouder, have made a few tweaks to their squad as well as they are expected to land a new goalkeeper instead of Raisa Costantino who left for Serie C side Tharros.
In the meantime, they have brought defender Jeanelle Falzon from Mtarfa, winger Martina Cortis from Birkirkara and forward Leah Ayres who last year was on the books of Raiders Lija. Former Malta youth international Demi Magrin, who last year was absent from Maltese football, will return into action after joining the Paolites as well.
Meanwhile, Valletta will be coached by Denis Guerra who has kept faith with majority of the players that composed his recent Raiders Lija squads.
The departure of D’Antuono means they will have a new custodian between the sticks while in recent days they made an important confirmation as defender Georgiana Mifsud will continue with the club.
On the other hand, there are still question marks around winger Lexine Farrugia who last year was on the books of club but has not yet been confirmed by Valletta.