Birkirkara’s ambitions of winning the FA trophy will be put under severe test this evening when the Stripes face GFA Division One high-flyers Għajnsielem at the Gozo Stadium in one of the plum fixtures of the Last 16 draw which will be played between Tuesday and Thursday.
On paper, Birkirkara, who are fighting for a top-four placing in the Premier League this season, might appear to be the firm favourites to reach the quarter-finals against GFA Division One opposition Għajnsielem.
However, if one analyses the Blacks performances in the GFA Division One this season, the Stripes might do well not to underestimate their opponents.
In fact the side coach by former Malta international Daniel Bogdanovic have taken the GFA Division One by storm this season, winning seven of the eight matches played and are topping the standings on 22 points, three clear of Nadur Youngsters.
Andre Paus, the Birkirkara coach, is not ready to take Għajnsielem lightly and has warned his players to take this match very seriously as it represented the shortest way for his side to secure European football this summer.
“This is a very important match for us,” the Dutchman, who saw his team hammer Lija Athletic 6-0 in the previous round, told the Times of Malta.
“We surely cannot afford to underestimate them as they will surely punish us. I am comparing this match to the one we had last year in the trophy against Nadur Youngsters.
“On that day, we had to be at our best to secure a 1-0 win and I’m expecting another difficult test against Għajnsielem.
“Għajnsielem have a very good team and it’s no coincidence that they are top of the GFA Division One. But we too are in a very good state and surely we are not afraid of them.
“The team has been performing well in the last few weeks. In fact, we played against four big teams in Ħamrun Spartans, Sliema Wanderers, Valletta and Floriana in quick succession and it wasn’t easy for us but the players have gone through them well so we just need to keep the momentum going.”
Għajnsielem, on their part, under the charge of coach Bogdnanovic are not ready to play second fiddle against Birkirkara, even though the former Marsaxlokk and Valletta striker admits that his team starts as the underdogs.
“We are going into the match high in confidence,” Bogdanovic said.
“This season we are displaying a good level of football, based on swift attacking play and looking at our statistics we have scored 28 goals and conceded just seven after seven league matches.
“We have a team built on young talent but who is showing that can compete well with top-flight sides, as shown in our commanding victory over Pieta Hotspurs in the previous round.
“I can assure you that although we know that we are facing a very strong side, we will try and give it our best shot. We will still try and play our attacking game and press them high and see what happens.
“I believe that we have what it takes to give Birkirkara a good run for their money.”
Għajnsielem vs Birkirkara 18.30
Gżira United vs Tarxien 17.00
Naxxar vs St Andrews 20.30
Pembroke vs Hibernians 17.00
Xagħra Utd vs Ħamrun S. 18.30
Senglea vs Valletta 18.30
Sta Lucia vs Mosta 18.30
Marsa vs Sirens 20.30