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Birkirkara and Balzan face off in FA Trophy with quarter-final spot at stake

Birkirkara’s Osvaldo Iorio shields the ball from Aleksa Andrejic.

The Izibet FA Trophy takes centre stage on Wednesday with some high-profile ties as teams will be looking to join Mosta and San Ġwann in this month’s quarter-final draw.

Today’s six-match programme was originally scheduled for last week but the inclement weather that hit the islands forced the MFA to put back these matches by a week for the safety and well-being of players and officials.

The National Stadium is set to host the two most awaited clashes of the Last 16 round as Birkirkara will take on neighbours Balzan in the opening match (kick-off: 5pm) before Ħamrun Spartans, the runaway leaders in the Premier League this season, will face old time rivals Valletta (7.30pm).

The match between Birkirkara and Balzan brings against each other two teams who are in a rich vein of form lately and have set their sights on booking a place in the UEFA Conference League qualifiers this summer.

Giovanni Tedesco, the Birkirkara coach, said that winning the FA Trophy was one of his main goals this season.

“The FA Trophy is a very prestigious competition and for us, it’s an exciting challenge to try and go all the way and lift the trophy next May,” the Italian coach said.

“I have first-hand experience on the emotions one feels when lifting the FA Trophy,” the Italian, who guided Floriana to FA Trophy glory in 2017.

“We are going to go up against a team who are in great form at the moment and no doubt they are going to offer a very stern test and we need to be ready to perform.

“Balzan is a team that has its own football identity and have some talented players in their team that can make a difference during a match.

“At this stage of the season, given the importance of the players we are playing, 100 per cent from my players is not enough. I have told my players if we want to end the season on a high and reach our objectives of qualifying for European football they have to give their 150 per cent.”

On his part, Oliver Spiteri, the Balzan coach, said that Balzan are keen to go all the way and win a second FA Trophy but admits that they have in front of them a very strong opponent.

“The FA Trophy is a very prestigious competition and we have the ambition to try and bring this cup back to our club,” Spiteri said.

“We are up against a very strong team who are guided by a very good coach who always manages to bring the best out of his players. But given our form, we are optimistic that we can produce a strong challenge and maintain our run in this competition.

“Our team has been performing consistently well since last December and every week we are always growing as a group. Last Sunday, against Pieta, the team showed great fighting spirit to come back from two goals down and win the match.

“That shows the strong character and hunger that drives my players forward and hopefully we can keep up this momentum against Birkirkara.”

Ħamrun Spartans and Valletta are set to provide another enthralling match in the second match of the evening, as the two rivals meet just a few days after going head-to-head in the Premier League.

Last Saturday, the Spartans eked out a 1-0 win over Valletta, courtesy of an Elvis Mashike early goal. But Valletta, produced a strong response after the break and their spirited display will surely fill their fans with hope that they can spring a surprise against the Premier League leaders.

PROGRAMME

PLAYING TODAY

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

TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Hibernians vs Kerċem A. 18.00
Sta Lucia vs Marsaxlokk 20.30

CENTENARY STADIUM
Gżira Utd vs Qala Saints 18.00
Gudja Utd vs Sirens 20.30

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