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Gżira United face Glentoran as Birkirkara, Balzan handed Slovenian ties in Conference League

Gżira United were handed a seemingly favourable draw in the UEFA Conference League when they were drawn against Glentoran, of Northern Ireland.

On the other hand, Birkirkara and Balzan face much tougher opposition as they were pitted against Slovenian opposition in the form of NK Maribor and NK Domzale respectively.

Gżira United were the only Maltese team to be seeded in yesterday’s draw and have been given a seemingly a balanced tie when they will be up against Glentoran.

The Northern Irish side have a long tradition in UEFA club competitions as their first participation dates back to 1962 when they played in the Inter Fairs Cup.

Their best result in a UEFA club competition is reaching the quarter-final of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1974, going out to German side Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Their last Irish title dates back to 14 years ago so no doubt Gżira United will fancy their chances to progress as they seek to emulate last season’s impressive run in the competition which saw them reach the third qualifying round.

Birkirkara will face NK Maribor, a team they have already faced in European football in their club’s history.

 In fact, these two teams had met in the first qualifying round of the Champions League in 2013 when on that occasion the Stripes were held to a goalless draw at National Stadium, only to lose the return leg in Slovenia 2-0.

Maribor have won a record 16 Slovenian league titles, including seven in a row between 1997 and 2003. They are the only Slovenian club that reached the group stages of the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League.

Despite on paper, this is likely to be a tough draw for Birkirkara, however, they will surely give it a good show, particularly as they are under the helm of Giovanni Tedesco who has secured some memorable nights with Maltese clubs in European football particularly beating West Ham at the National Stadium in his first stint at Birkirkara and knocking out Hajduk Split during his spell with Gżira United.

Besides, Birkirkara are working hard to build a competitive squad and have already made some quality signings such as Brazilian forward Maxuell Maia, formerly of Gżira United.

Balzan were handed a rematch against familiar opposition in the form of NK Domzale, of Slovenia.

The Reds, under the charge of Oliver Spiteri, qualified to Europe after placing fourth inthe Premier League last season, after defeating Hibernians in a play-off.

Their reward is a rematcha against Slovenian giants NK Domzale, who they faced in the Europa League in the summer of 2019.

That tie turned out to be a thrilling affair as Domzale edged Balzan 4-3 in the first leg at the Centenary Stadium before completing their qualification with a 1-0 win in the second leg in Slovenia a week later for a 5-3 aggregate success.

Domzale are back in European football after a one-year absence after finishing fourth in the Slovenian league last season.

They have only been in the Slovenian top division for 20 years and have only two national titles to their name which they won in 2007 and 2008.

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