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Ħamrun, Valletta renew rivalry in high-stakes FA Trophy clash

Ħamrun Spartans striker Dodo (left) is challenged by Valletta's Enmy Pena Beltre. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

The FA Trophy takes centre stage this week with some epic ties that will surely revive some big rivalries in Maltese football as teams will be looking to book a place in the quarter-finals of this prestigious competition.

No doubt, the plum fixture of the Last 16 is the clash between old-time rivals Ħamrun Spartans and Valletta who will face off at the National Stadium Wednesday at 7.30pm.

For both teams, the FA Trophy holds huge significance for contrasting reasons.

While the Spartans, who are well on course to win the Premier League title, are hopeful of ending a 30-year wait to win the Cup competition and complete a dream domestic double, on the other hand, for Valletta the FA Trophy represents their final opportunity for a place in European football next summer.

The Spartans are in rude health as they have been showing great consistency and ruthlessness, suffering just one defeat in all competitions this season.

However, coach Branko Nisevic is not taking the tie against Valletta lightly and has warned his players about the importance of this fixture for both the club and their fans.

Cup drought

“This is a big, big match for both teams,” Nisevic told the Times of Malta.

“When you look at the huge rivalry that exists between both clubs, I am sure that both teams will go out for the kill.

“For us, the FA Trophy is a big objective. It has been 31 years since our club last won the competition and we are determined to finally end this wait for our passionate fans. I hope that in this match we can put down a marker and show that we have the qualities to go on and lift the trophy.

“But at the same time, we need to be wary of the threat posed by Valletta who have shown remarkable improvement in recent weeks, and who for them the FA Trophy represents their final opportunity to play in Europe. So we need to be wary.”

Nisevic is sweating on the fitness of defender Steve Borg who missed last weekend’s 1-0 win over Floriana through injury.

On his part, Valletta coach Thane Micallef has described the clash against Ħamrun Spartans as a very important clash for his team.

“The FA Trophy always ranks high on the agenda of our club and we will do all we can to try and win it,” Micallef said.

“Last season we came so close to lifting the cup but the team lost the final and this season, this competition represents an ideal pathway to European football so we need to give it our best shot.

“In recent weeks, I was encouraged by the performances of the team, and maybe had we been more ruthless and focused we could have turned some matches in our favour. It’s important that we keep our level of performances of late and hopefully ‘Lady Luck’ will smile a bit more at us.”

Micallef is boosted by the return from suspension of Rowen Muscat but goalkeeper Alessandro Guarnone and Ryan Camilleri are still ruled out by injury.

PROGRAMME

TUESDAY
CENTENARY STADIUM
Mosta vs Swieqi United 18.00

WEDNESDAY
NATIONAL STADIUM
Balzan vs Birkirkara 17.00
Valletta vs Ħamrun S. 19.30

TEDESCO STADIUM
Pieta H. vs San Ġwann 19.30

TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Hibernians vs Kerċem 18.00

CENTENARY STADIUM
Gudja Utd vs Sirens 19.30

THURSDAY
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Sta Lucia vs Marsaxlokk 19.00

CENTENARY STADIUM
Gżira Utd vs Qala S. 20.00

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