League champions Valletta and Balzan will be looking to end the 2018-19 football season in triumphant fashion when they go head-to-head into today’s FA Trophy final at the National Stadium (kick-off: 5pm).
The two finalists are driven by a common ambition of rewriting their respective clubs’ history books should they emerge victorious this evening. That alone should be enough to pave the way for another ‘decider’ full of attacking play and emotions.
For Valletta, winning the FA Trophy would not only secure them another league and cup double but also become only the second team in the country to chalk up a double-double after Ħamrun Spartans who had achieved the feat in 1988.
Balzan have never won a major trophy since the club’s foundation in 1937. So, for them the FA Trophy would be a historic feat.
Valletta coach Gilbert Agius said that for his players today’s final will be the perfect opportunity to further establish their names in the glorious history of the club by winning the FA Trophy for the 15th time.
“For us this year’s FA Trophy final is the perfect opportunity for this fantastic group of players to continue inscribe their names in the history of the club with golden letters,” the Valletta coach told a news conference.
“To win the double for a second successive season would be a massive achievement and they are all very motivated to go on and finish the job on Saturday.
“Still it will not be easy as we are facing a Balzan team who will be very much motivated to win their first ever honour in the club history and at the same time make up for what was a disappointing season by qualifying for European football.
“I feel that Balzan’s decision to bring Jacques Scerri at the helm midway through the season was a masterstroke as he managed to put the team back on track and if you analyse their results under the helm it’s quiet impressive as in their last 12 matches they only conceded two defeats and managed seven clean sheets. So that shows you the difficult task we have on hand.”
Agius reported that the last week has given the opportunity to many of his players to recover their fitness after having played three very tough matches in the space of a week. The Valletta coach is boosted by the return of Joseph Zerafa from suspension, but Argentine midfielder Miguel Alba is out after undergoing foot surgery.
“I’m pleased to report that we managed to recover a lot of players and we only have some minor niggles but I can assure you that every player will be determined to play in a final so I’m sure everyone will be ready,” Agius said.
“One of the real positives from last week has been the fact that I saw my players really enjoy themselves playing without pressure on their back and the team’s performance was really good and that bodes well for the FA Trophy final as it shows that the players are still hungry for more success.”
On his part, Valletta skipper Jonathan Caruana said that all the players at Valletta are determined to finish on the right note.
“To play in an FA Trophy is a great honour for any player and the fact that we have the chance to win the double in back-to-back seasons is a great source of motivation for us and we can’t wait to get on the pitch tomorrow and bring the trophy to our club,” the Malta defender said.
“Despite playing three matches in a week the performance of the team has been very good as whoever was on the pitch did the job for us and now we are just one step away to crown a fine season with another trophy.
“The last three weeks have not been easy for us but the players stick together and I have no doubt that the beautiful memories we have of winning the title will push us to greater heights in the final against Balzan.”
For Scerri a win in today’s final against Valletta will certainly be a huge achievement given the fact that he came to the club just less than three months ago to replace Marko Micovic.
The former Ħamrun coach said that while he is aware that today’s showdown against Valletta is arguably the players’ biggest match in their career he is heartened by the fighting spirit they showed during the FA Trophy semi-final win over Birkirkara last weekend.
“When I took over at Balzan we set our target to try and help the club secure a place in European football,” Scerri said.
“But we have gone further than that promise as we are now in a good position of bringing the first piece of silverware to our club. We know that we are facing a very difficult task as we are playing against the Malta champions but I think we showed in the last few weeks that we are more than capable of beating the best teams in the country.
“Our performance against Birkirkara has encouraged me a lot as the players have fought throughout the 90 minutes to turn the match in their favour despite the huge pressure they were playing in.
“The fact that the players can enter into the club’s history books is a huge source of motivation and hopefully we can put up a strong showing and end this long wait and bring the trophy to our club.”
Scerri is boosted by a full squad for today’s showdown.
Steve Bezzina, the Balzan fullback, has already tasted silverware success throughout his career as the former Valletta defender has won a league title, an FA Trophy two Super Cup medals and an Anniversary Cup with the Citizens.
However, he admits that winning the FA Trophy again with Balzan would be a special achievement.
“This FA Trophy final has a special significance for us as it would make amends for what has been a poor performance in the Premier League this season,” Bezzina said.
“In my career I was blessed to have won five trophies during my time at Valletta. But honestly to help Balzan win the FA Trophy would be a special moment for me as this is a club that has never tasted such success.
“In the last few years we were in a position to win silverware on many occasions but we ended up slipping at the final hurdle. I hope that we this time we can make this final step to repay the club’s faith in us with the FA Trophy.”
Last 10 finals
2009: Sliema vs Valletta 3-3 (aet; Sliema win 4-3 on pens)
2010: Valletta vs Qormi - 2-1
2011: Floriana vs Valletta - 1-0
2012: Hibernians vs Qormi - 3-1
2013: Hibernians vs Qormi - 3-1
2014: Valletta vs Sliema - 1-0
2015: Birkirkara vs Hibernians - 2-0
2016: Sliema vs Balzan - 0-0 (aet; Sliema win 5-4 on pens)
2017: Floriana vs Sliema - 2-0
2018: Valletta vs Birkirkara - 2-1
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