Preview: FA Trophy Valletta vs Birkirkara Published on: 05-05-2018

Valletta and Birkirkara will bring the curtains down on the 2017-18 season today when they face each other in the Boost Diesel FA Trophy final at the National Stadium (kick-off: 5pm).
Newly-crowned league champions Valletta will be determined to lift the Trophy for the 14th time in their history as they look to seal a memorable championship and cup double.
But they will find in front of them five-time winners Birkirkara who, despite all the troubles encountered this season, have managed to secure a place in the Europa League qualfiers and will be determined to bow out on a high.
Both Valletta and Birkirkara had to go through grueling semi-finals to cut their ticket for this afternoon’s showdown.
Valletta survived the second-half dismissal of Steve Borg to come from behind and beat Balzan 2-1 following two late goals scored by Denni, from a controversial penalty, and Matteo Piciollo.
On the other hand, Birkirkara had goalkeeper Kristjan Naumovski to thank as the Macedonian took centre stage in the shootout when saving two penalties as the Stripes won 3-2 after the match finished in a 1-1
Danilo Doncic, the Valletta coach, said that there is no bigger match for a player than a Cup final and was confident that his players will be ready to deliver a strong performance and help the club seal a memorable season by clinching the double.
“There’s no bigger matches for a player than to play in a Cup final,” Doncic told reporters yesterday.
“During my playing career here in Malta I was lucky to be part of seven FA Trophy finals, winning four of them, three with Valletta and one with Sliema Wanderers so I know what a special moment this can be.
“This will be my first final as a coach and hopefully I can experience the joy of winning from the bench.
“This has been a tremendous season for Valletta and we thoroughly deserved to be in the final but we still have another 90 minutes to play to make it even better.
“I’m sure that the players will be super motivated to go out and bring the trophy back to the capital city.”
The Valletta coach cannot field his strongest formation as defender Steve Borg must serve a one-match ban after his dismissal against Balzan but on a more positive note Michael Mifsud has recovered full fitness and is available for selection.”
A bumper crowd is expected at the National Stadium this afternoon as both clubs’ ticket allocation at the Enclosure Stand are sold out. Fans can still buy the remaining tickets available from the Millennium Stand
this afternoon.
“I’m really pleased to hear that we will be playing infront of a big crowd,” Valletta goalkeeper Henry Bonello said.
“The atmosphere will be electric and will fire up all the players. I have no doubt that the Valletta fans will be again behind us in big numbers as they have done in recent weeks.
“Hopefully we can give them more cause for celebration by winning the double.”
On his part, Paul Zammit, the Birkirkara coach, heaped praise on his players after guiding the club to another Cup final and securing participation in European football despite all the troubles in a difficult season.
“I must commend my players for the huge sacrifices they did this season as they had to battle all sorts of elements to be able to reach our goal of securing European football,” Zammit said.
“It was a hard task but with sheer determination they accomplished the job and went one step further by reaching this Cup final which is important for our club and our fans.
“Personally, I thank God that I’m sitting down here today with you as 12 months ago I experienced the dark side of football,” Zammit added, referring to the dismal end to the 2016-17 season when he was in charge of today’s finalists Valletta.
“But thanks to the support of my family and friends I came through it and I’m grateful to the president of Birkirkara that has shown faith in me.”
As regards, today’s final, Zammit is anticipating a tough battle.
“We will be facing the strongest team this season so we have to be 100 per cent at the top of our game if we are to win the final,” Zammit said.
“Valletta have a lot of quality and can punish us for the least mistake we will commit.
We prepared well for this match and I hope that the final will be a very positive advert to Maltese football.”
Birkirkara captain Nikola Vukanac said that playing a final will be a great experience for the players, particularly the young members of the team who have done so well this season.
“This is a very important match for us as we have the opportunity to bring silverware to the club despite all the difficulties we passed through this season,” the Serbian defender said.
“After securing European football our priority is to end the season on a high and I’m sure that the final will be a great experience for the young members of our squad who will taste the pressure of such contest for the first time in their career… hopefully they will leave the stadium with a big smile on their face.”

Source - Times of Malta