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Watch: Eyes on the prize as Floriana and Sliema seek top status in FA Trophy final

The 2023-24 football season is set for a fascinating finale as Old Firm rivals Floriana and Sliema Wanderers will face off in the FA Trophy final at the National Stadium this afternoon (kick-off: 4pm).

This Cup showdown brings against each other two of the most decorated teams in Maltese football.

In fact, Floriana and Sliema Wanderers are without doubt the two clubs who can boast the highest of honours in Maltese football.

Floriana and Sliema Wanderers are sharing top spot in the rankings for teams with the highest number of Premier League titles, with 26, and they are also level in first place when it comes to FA Trophy victories with 21.

Thus the winner of today’s showdown at the National Stadium will take the prestigious status of the most successful club in Maltese football.

Both Floriana and Sliema Wanderers had to battle hard to reach this year’s final.

Floriana coach Mauro Camoranesi gives his thoughts before Sunday’s FA Trophy final. Video: Jonathan Borg

On one hand Floriana had to come from two goals down and play for more than an hour with nine men following the dismissal of Matias Garcia and Oualid El Hasni before overcoming the challenge of Gżira United in a penalty shoot-out in Tuesday’s semi-final.

On the other hand, Sliema Wanderers put in a resilient display to ward off the challenge of Birkirkara with Joseph Minala clinching the winner from the penalty spot late in extra-time to set up an Old Firm derby showdown this afternoon.

Floriana coach Mauro Camoranesi hailed his team’s fighting qualities to reach this year’s final and has backed his players to go all the way this afternoon.

“There is no doubt that we fully deserve to reach this final,” Camoranesi told the Times of Malta.

“We are very happy as when we started the season we had said that we wanted to compete on both fronts and that is what we have done in the league and we are in the FA Trophy final.

“When 30 teams compete in a cup competition and you reach the final it means that you have done well. When 14 teams compete in the Premier League and you keep fighting for the title till the final day, it means that you have performed well.

Sliema Wanderers coach Paul Zammit gives his thoughts before Sunday’s final. Video: Jonathan Borg

“Now it’s important that we end the season well. We have a very tough match against Sliema Wanderers. They are an opponent we know very well and they are a team who are very hard to beat and has conceded very few goals.

“From the few matches that they have lost, two of them were against us, so we stand a good chance. But we need to prove it on the pitch as there is nothing guaranteed in football.”

Floriana midfielder Dunstan Vella said that his team have already reached their main goal of the season – qualification to European football – but winning the FA Trophy would be the perfect way to conclude what he described as a very positive campaign.

“This has been a great season for us irrespective to how our league campaign finished,” Vella said.

“Our main objective was to return to European football and we attained that with several weeks to spare. Now our focus is to complete the season in the best possible way.

“Comparing the team’s achievements between last year and this season, it’s clear that their has been significant improvement. Obviously, we are disappointed on how our league campaign finished but that is in the past now.

“This is an opportunity to establish our club as the most decorated team in Maltese football and we want to reach this objective with victory in the final.”

Camoranesi will be without two key players for this match as defender El Hasni and midfielder Garcia are out with a one-match ban. On the other hand, Lorenzo De Grazia returns after serving a one-match suspension.

Sliema coach Paul Zammit said that his team’s resilience has been key behind their successful run to today’s final and said that they need more of the same if they are to return home with the FA Trophy in their hands.

Resilience

“Being resilient is a key ingredient to clinch success in football,” the Sliema coach said.

“This season we have learned a lot as a team and a key factor in this kind of matches is to ensure that you keep your consistency in your performance.

“To reach this final, we had to battle a lot. We had to dig deep in our reserves to eliminate Balzan, Mosta and Birkirkara and the key factor behind these victories has been the great bond that exists among the players who are capable of reaching the objective we have set.

“Now we have the opportunity to wrap up a great season for us with victory in the FA Trophy. It’s going to be another difficult challenge for us. To win this match we have to be ready to battle it out throughout the whole 120 minutes, if needed.”

Sliema captain Mark Scerri is sidelined for today’s final as he is recovering from a serious knee injury. Although he is unable to give his part on the pitch, the veteran midfielder has sent a rallying cry to his team-mates.

“Sunday’s final is a great occasion for our club and to be honest it’s tough for me not to be able to give my contribution on the pitch,” Scerri said.

“For our coach, it will not be difficult to motivate the players as these are matches that one dreams to be part of. We are facing a very tough opponent and no doubt, it’s going to be a very difficult match.

“We have the chance to transform our club into the most successful team on the island and there are going to be great expectations from our fans who have been behind us throughout the whole season.

“It’s our obligation to leave everything we have on the pitch and hopefully it will be enough to add this prestigious trophy to our trophy cabinet.”

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