The backing from the home support will play an important role for Birkirkara as the Maltese champions launch their Women’s Champions League campaign on Wednesday.
The Stripes will host Montenegro’s Breznica, winners of last season’s domestic title in the Group 11 semi-final of their qualifying tournament, at the Centenary Stadium (kick-off: 6pm).
Awaiting the winner in the final is highly-rated Zurich of Switzerland, – pencilled in for Saturday – who are expected to be the qualifier from this group and advance to the second round of the qualification round together with the winners of the other ten groups.
Birkirkara are hoping that the home crowd can inspire them to write another memorable chapter in the local women’s game.
Last season, the 11-time Maltese champions became the first Maltese side to win a game in the Women’s Champions League after beating Northern Ireland’s Glentoran 2-1.
While another victory in this competition means more ranking points, a win in front of the home crowd would continue to solidify the image of the women’s game on our shores.
Jose Borg, in his second year in charge of Birkirkara, did not hide his emotions about the fact of playing a European tie on home soil.
“It’s a huge honour for me to coach Birkirkara in such a game, in front of our supporters,” he told the Times of Malta.
“One of the biggest advantages for us is that our players will have their relatives backing them from the stands and want to capitalise on that.”
For just the second time, the Women’s Champions League will be hosted in Malta.
The other edition was in 2012 with Birkirkara also representing Malta in that campaign, losing to Romania’s Olimpija Cluj, Dezembro of Portugal, and Glentoran in the then three-team group stage.
To make sure they try to improve on that occasion, Birkirkara kept themselves busy during the summer transfer window with the acquisition of three foreign players and Maltese forward Francesca Chircop, who joined from Mġarr United.
The Stripes welcomed American duo Caitlin Rodgers and Arianna Del Moral while signing highly-rated Edith Garcia from Uruguay.
In their season opener, they hit Lija Athletic for 11 as they extended their unbeaten league run to 88 games.
Coach Borg heaped praise on Rodgers who was the first foreigner to arrive during the summer and has already managed to adapt herself to the team’s tactics.
On the other hand, Del Moral and Garcia are still adjusting themselves and it is yet to be seen whether they will be available for selection for the European games.
On the other hand, FK Breznica have also launched their title defence back home with a comprehensive 7-2 win over Buducnost Podgorica.
Unlike Birkirkara, they failed to win in Europe in the previous edition after losing to Spartak Myjava, of Slovakia, in the semi-final.
In Montenegro, they are one of the powerhouses in the women’s game with eight league titles.
Their squad, led by Zoran Vukovic, is composed mostly of young players with only two of them hailing from outside Montenegro and both are from Serbia.
“On paper, Breznica look inferior to last year’s semi-final opponents – Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Sarajevo – so we are willing to implement a more offensive approach against them.”
This year’s Women’s Champions League final will be played in May, at Bilbao’s San Mames.
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