Champions Hamrun kick-off BOV Premier League campaign with tricky Balzan test

Champions Hamrun Spartans kick-off their 2023/24 BOV Premier League campaign with a clash with Balzan in one of the two matches in programme at the National Stadium on Saturday.

Both sides were engaged in European football this summer with the Spartans entering the UEFA Europa Conference League after the elimination from the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Maccabi Haifa and reaching the third qualifying round after eliminating Dinamo Tbilisi. Balzan, on the other hand, took part in the UEFA Europa Conference League, reaching the second qualifying round after eliminating NK Domzale.

Apart from appointing Luciano Zauri as their new coach replacing Branko Nisevic, this summer, Hamrun secured the services of goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, Karlo Bilic, Nemanja Krstic, Elionay, Yuliyan Nenov, Seth Paintsil, Uros Djuranovic and veteran Joseph Zerafa.

Matthew Guillumier moved to Poland while Rodrigo Calegari, Vinicius Freitas, Elvis Mashike, Kalle Holmberg and Dodo were not retained with young talents such as Matthias Debono, Shaisen Attard, Sven Xerri, Matthew Mifsud and Nikolai Micallef amongst others all being loaned to other clubs.

Once again led by Oliver Spiteri, Balzan managed to secure the services of Triston Caruana, Jake Grech and a number of foreign players, namely Leonardo da Silva de Souza, Andre Prates, Ryohei Michibuchi, Aleksandar Katanic, goalkeeper Danilo Golovic, Manyluak Aguek, Peter Olawale and Dimeji Awosanya.

The club lost influential player Angel Torres and goalkeeper Jonathan Debono, Alex Satariano’s loan expired while Duvan Torres, Delvin N’Dinga, Matheus Souza, Bojan Kaljevic and Bogdan Mladenovic were not retained. Evandro Gomes and Adam Bradshaw were loaned.

Meanwhile in the second match, Gzira United face Hibernians.

Gzira finished third last season while Hibernians placed joint-fourth but missed out on a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League after losing a decider to Balzan.

The Maroons went through a number of changes this summer, losing the services of Luke Tabone, Nikolai Muscat, Marko Cosic, Toni Kolega, Steve Pisani, Jefferson de Assis and Maxuell Maia among others. Darren Abdilla remains at the helm and new additions to the squad include Jose Wilkson Teixeira, Thaylor Aldama, Carlos Conceicao Filho, Farid Romero Zuniga, Ryan Essaka, Adama Sane and goalkeeper Craig Abdilla. In the UEFA Europa Conference League, they made it to the third qualifying round after eliminating Glentoran and F91 Diddeleng.

Hibernians welcome back Branko Nisevic as their coach. They secured the services of goalkeeper Jonathan Debono, Samuel Okoh, Mamadou Bagayoko, Alex Bruno de Souza Silva, Rodney Akowuah Antwi, Eriks de Souza Santos Pereira, Claudio Bonanni, Giannis Bastianos, Luiz Henrique Guedes, Armen Hovhannisyan and Robert Bairam while Ayrton Attard and Lucas Caruana return with the club after a spell at Marsaxlokk and Sampdoria respectively.

Sat 16-Sep-2023Hamrun Spartans FC vs Balzan FC18:00National Stadium
Sat 16-Sep-2023Gzira United FC vs Hibernians FC20:15National Stadium

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