Birkirkara have a tough task on their hands as they must beat KS Vllaznia in today’s second leg in Albania to progress to the second qualifying round of the Europa League (kick-off 7 p.m.).
The 1-0 loss in the first leg at the Hibs Stadium has left the Stripes with a mountain to climb and needing to produce one of their best performances in Europe to keep their interest in the competition alive.
Patrick Curmi, the Birkirkara coach, will certainly urge his players to show total focus from the outset as the Stripes paid a high price for conceding a goal inside the opening two minutes of last week’s opening leg.
Despite seeing more of the ball, Birkirkara struggled to create scoring opportunities in the home leg and Curmi will be hoping that his team show flair and more penetration in Albania this evening.
Curmi has taken a 17-man squad for today’s second leg at the Loro Borici Stadium. Missing from the Birkirkara part are Brazilian Antonio Carlos Gomes who is still injuryed and Malta defender Andrei Agius whose short-term contract with the former Malta champions expired at the end of last month.
The Stripes had a rather arduous journey to their destination. After flying to Albania via Rome, the Birkirkara contingent had a two-hour bus journey to Shkoder.
Vllaznia, the oldest club in Albania, will be confident of completing their passage to the second qualifying round of the Europa League this evening. FC Thun, of Switzerland, await the winner of the Vllaznia-Birkirkara match.
Last season, Vllaznia made it through to the second qualifying round after ousting Sligo Rovers, of Ireland, 3-2 on aggregate.
However, their run in the competition was halted by Austrian side Rapid Vienna who went through 8-0 on aggregate.
Referee: Marco Vik (Slovakia).
Lautier to ref in Albania
Meanwhile, Maltese referee Christopher Lautier will take charge of the Europa League first qualifying round, second leg match between KS Flamurtari (Albania) and FK Budućnost Podgorica (Montenegro) this evening.
The assistant referees will be Edward Spiteri and Thomas Debono while Paul Caruana will act as fourth official.
Flamurtari are favourites to progress after establishing a 3-1 lead in last week’s first leg in Montenegro.
Today’s second legs
|First qualifying round||1st leg||2nd leg Agg.|
|Reykjavik (Iceland) vs Fuglafjordur (F. Islands)||3-1|
|Tromso (Norway) vs D. Daugavpils (Latvia)||5-0|
|Fola Esch (Luxembourg) vs Elfsborg (Sweden)||0-4|
|Cliftonville (N. Ireland) vs The New Saints (Wales)||1-1|
|Nomme Kalju (Estonia) vs H. Espoo (Finland)||0-0|
|NSI Runavik (F. Islands) vs Fulham (England)||0-3|
|St Patrick’s (Ireland) vs Vestmannaeyjar (Iceland)
|Hacken (Sweden) vs Kaerjeng 97 (Luxembourg)||1-1|
|Neath FC (Wales) vs Aalesund FK (Norway)||1-4|
|Glentoran (N. Ireland) vs Renova (Macedonia)||1-2|
|S. Karagandy (Kazakhstan) vs FC Koper (Slovenia)||1-1|
|Qarabag FK (Azerbaijan) vs Banga (Lithuania)||4-0|
|Paksi SE (Hungary) vs UE S. Coloma (Andorra)||1-0|
|FK Rabotnicki (Macedonia) vs Trans Narva (Estonia)||4-1|
|Tre Penne (San Marino) vs FK Rad (Serbia)
|Flaumurtari (Albania) vs Buducnost (Montenegro)
|Ulisses FC (Armenia) vs Ferencvaros (Hungary)||0-3|
|I. Pavlodar (Kazakhstan) vs J. Bialystok (Poland)
|Minsk (Belarus) vs Olimpik-Suvalan PFK (Azerbaijan)||1-1|
|M. Orhei (Moldova) vs Dinamo Tbilisi (Georgia)||0-2|
|Lusitans (Andorra) vs NK Varazdin (Croatia)||1-5|
|M. Rustavi (Georgia) vs FC Banants (Armenia)||1-0|
|Vllaznia (Albania) vs Birkirkara (Malta)||1-0|
|O. Ljubljana (Slovenia) vs Siroki Brijeg (Bosnia)||0-0
|Zeta (Montenegro) vs Spartak Trnava (Slovakia)||0-3|
Second qualifying round
Floriana (Malta) vs AEK Larnaca (Cyprus)
Birkirkara/KS Vllaznia vs FC Thun (Switzerland)
First legs: July 14;
Second legs: July 21.
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