Hibs to play FC Vaduz, Sirens to travel at CSKA Sofia
There were mixed fortunes for the Maltese teams competing in this season’s Europa League as the draw of the first qualifying round was held on Monday.
Valletta were handed a seemingly favourable draw against Welsh side Bala Town while both Hibernians and Sirens face away ties against FC Vaduz, of Liechtenstein, and Bulgaria’s CSKA Sofia.
All ties will be held in a one-off game with the Citizens the only team to play their European assignment on home soil as Hibernians and Sirens will have to travel away.
Valletta will be the happier team of the trio as aided by being one of the seeded sides in Monday’s draw they were paired against a team of more or less their calibre in Bala Town.
The Welsh side, contrary to Valletta FC, do not boast a huge experience in European football as they only started competing in UEFA club competitions in 2013-14.
In five successive Europa League participations, they failed to progress past the first qualifying round with their last appearance coming against Tre Fiori, of San Marino in 2019, going out 3-1 on aggregate.
The team guided by Colin Caton will be making a return to European football after an absence of one season when they placed third in the Welsh Cymru Premier League which was not completed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Valletta have a positive memory against Welsh teams in European football as in season 1999-2000 they were drawn against Barry Town and managed to qualify to the second qualifying round 3-2 on aggregate.
On the other hand, Hibernians have a challenging task on their hands when they will travel to the Rheinpark Stadion to face FC Vaduz.
Vaduz, who are the country’s only professional club, represent annually the small European nation in the Europa League every time they win the domestic Cup since Liechtenstein do not organize their own league.
The club play in the Swiss Challenge League (second-tier) as guests.
Guided by former Liechtenstein star Mario Frick, who as a player was on the books of Siena, Vaduz have been playing in Europe since 1992 and reached the third qualifying round three times.
In 2011 they ousted Vojvodina but then lost to Hapoel Tel Aviv, in 2015 when they had the better of San Marino’s La Fiorita and Estonia’s Nomme Kalju but were then ousted by FC Thun of Switzerland while last season they beat Breidablik, of Iceland, Fehervar, of Hungary, before losing to Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.
Sirens were handed a baptism of fire in the Europa League when they were drawn to face Bulgarian giants CSKA Sofia away.
The Sofia club need little introduction as they established themselves as one of the big guns in Bulgaria.
CSKA Sofia were crowned Bulgarian champions for 31 times and lifted the national cup 20 times.
They are the only Bulgarian side to have reached the semi-finals of the European Cup and the last four of the Cup Winners Cup once.
This will be the second time that CSKA were drawn against Maltese opposition as in season 1966-67 they faced Sliema Wanderers 6-1 on aggregate.