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Watch: High stakes on the line as Birkirkara, Ħamrun eye FA Trophy semis

Ħamrun Spartans president Joseph Portelli speaks to a press conference before the team's FA Trophy clash with Birkirkara. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Marsaxlokk face Floriana as Gżira play giant killers Mġarr

Birkirkara’s hopes of retaining the IZIBET FA Trophy face a huge test when the cup holders face league champions Ħamrun Spartans in one of four quarter-final ties from the knock-out competition that will be played on Saturday.

The day’s programme also features some other exciting ties as the remaining eight teams will step up their drive to reach the semi-finals of the cup competition in a bid to not only keep alive their hopes of silverware but also to stay in the hunt for a place in the UEFA Conference League this summer.

2023 finalists Marsaxlokk will be bidding to stay on course to try and go one better than last season when they face Premier League leaders Floriana.

Gżira United face the competition’s giant-killers Mġarr United, who in the previous round knocked out Santa Lucia while in the final tie of the day, Mosta take on Sliema Wanderers.

Ħamrun Spartans and Birkirkara have already met twice this season with contrasting results. In the first league meeting between the two clubs in December, Birkirkara handed the Spartans their first league defeat of the season with a 3-0 victory. However, five days later the Spartans took sweet revenge when they brushed Birkirkara 4-0 in the Super Cup final to lift their first honour of the season.

The match between Birkirkara and Ħamrun Spartans brings against each other two teams who are desperate for a win.

The Stripes are currently sixth in the Premier League standings and with work to do for a top-four finish that could earn them a place in Europe as destiny lies out of their hands.

On the other hand, the FA Trophy provides them a direct route to Europe if they manage to win their next three matches.

Team skipper Enrico Pepe is aware of the difficult task awaiting his team but said that the Stripes should not fear their opponents and has vowed to take revenge following their Super Cup loss.

“We are aware that we will be up against a very strong team,” the Malta defender said.

“They are guided by a great coach but here at Birkirkara, we don’t fear them. We will take the field with the sole aim of winning the match. It’s a game we don’t need any sort of motivation to prepare for.

“It’s a game that if you win you progress and if you lose you’re out, it’s as simple as that. Our defeat against Ħamrun Spartans in the Super Cup was hard to fathom and we are keen to avenge that result to make our fans proud.”

On his part, Birkirkara president Michael Valenzia admitted that qualifying for European football was the club’s minimum objective this season and he urged his players to put on a performance that is deserved for a Cup holders.

“It has been a topsy-turvy campaign for us due to various reasons,” Valenzia said.

“But despite all the problems we’ve had, we’re at the end of March and still in the hunt for a place in Europe through both the Premier League and the FA Trophy. There are teams with a huge history that are behind us in the league and are already out of this competition.

“Qualification for European football is the minimum objective for us and being the holders of the FA Trophy we should try and prove that we deserve this title. Our defeat to Ħamrun Spartans in the Super Cup was our worst performance of the season but one must remember that three days before, we beat them in the league so that shows that anything can happen.

“I hope that the fans will throng the stadium on Saturday to help our players achieve what would be a very important step towards European football.”

Social aspect

For Ħamrun Spartans, Saturday’s match has a two-fold objective, one from a sporting angle and the other from an important social aspect.

The Spartans are determined to stay on course for a treble of trophies after winning the Super Cup last December.

From a social aspect, the match will see the Reds don a unique shirt for the occasion, created by the Ħamrun Ħanin NGO, which raises awareness about autism.

President Joseph Portelli has issued a rallying cry to his players to show their real strength and bounce back from a damaging league defeat to Marsaxlokk just before the international break.

“Our goal remains winning the treble this season – the Premier League, the FA Trophy and the Super Cup,” Portelli said.

“We know that we are playing against a strong team and we have experienced first-hand how dangerous they are when we lost our league meeting. Birkirkara may be under more pressure than us due to their situation to qualify for Europe.

“However, the players are aware that this match is like a final for us. We are coming from a difficult performance in the league and I expect a strong reaction from the players to atone for that disappointment… they owe it to our fans.”

Club captain Steve Borg said that being under pressure in football is important so that one can produce his best possible performance.

“Pressure in football is a healthy element for us players so we can produce our best,” the Ħamrun Spartans skipper said.

“We are aware that we have potentially eight matches in front of us and if we win them all we can secure all the trophies available this season. I joined Ħamrun Spartans because I knew that our president had a burning ambition to win honours and as a player that is what drives me forward.

“I don’t want to end my career and look back and say that I could win trophies but I failed. That is my motivation to try and win every honour and make sure to give joy and satisfaction to our president Joseph Portelli who makes sure that we have the best possible conditions to perform at our best.”


Gżira Utd vs Mġarr Utd 14.00

Marsaxlokk vs Floriana 14.00
Mosta vs Sliema W. 16.30

Birkirkara vs Ħamrun S. 15.00

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