After the emotions triggered by the final Match Day of the opening phase of the 2021-22 BOV Premier League, the focus will now switch onto the FA Trophy when the eight quarter-finalists will be decided between today and tomorrow.
The last 16 draw has set up three fascinating ties between Premier League sides with the plum fixture featuring holders Balzan and Ħamrun Spartans at the National Stadium.
This match will be preceded by the tie between Birkirkara and Mosta while Gudja United will take on Gżira United in the early fixture at the Tony Bezzina Stadium.
For Balzan, the last team to lift the FA Trophy two years ago, the tie against Ħamrun Spartans has come at a very delicate time of the season after they suffered a damaging 1-0 defeat to Sta Lucia last weekend that left them embroiled in a tough battle to preserve their top-flight status.
Given the circumstances they find themselves in, winning the FA Trophy may not be their main focus at the moment but Balzan coach Paul Zammit said that the tie against the Malta champions could be a good opportunity for his team to build a bit of momentum ahead of the decisive phase of the season.
“We are conscious of the difficult situation we are passing through,” Zammit told the Times of Malta.
“If you look at our recent results it’s clear that there has been a lot of negativity as we have struggled for results despite the fact that our performances deserved much more.
“Our priority at the moment is to try and turn the tide and make sure we move out of this difficult situation. The only way to achieve that is to start and turn our good performances into positive results.
“We are conscious of the fact that we are facing one of the strongest squads on the island when playing Ħamrun Spartans so it will not be easy but we need to give everything we have as a win could be a huge injection of confidence for our players.”
On the other hand, Ħamrun Spartans are looking at the FA Trophy as their best opportunity to win any silverware this season and will be determined to secure a place in the quarter-finals.
Coach Branko Nisevic said that he is not looking much into Balzan’s struggles at the moment as he believes they remain very dangerous opponents, particularly now that they are passing through a difficult time.
“I think this season has shown that that there are no easy teams to play and everyone is capable
of pulling off a win on their day,” Nisevic said.
“This match holds the same significance for both teams as it represents an opportunity to secure European football this summer.
“It’s true that Balzan have been passing through a difficult spell during the last few weeks as the wheel of fortune has gone a bit against them.
“But you when face a wounded team like Balzan you must be extra cautious as their recent struggles could make them a more dangerous team to play.
“So there is no hiding that we need to be at our best if we are to move into the next round.
“Our performances are slowly improving but we need to continue to build on the good things we have shown recently.”
Floriana vs St George’s 17.00
Tarxien R. vs Valletta 20.30
Birkirkara vs Mosta 17.00
Balzan vs Ħamrun S. 20.30
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Gżira Utd vs Gudja 17.00
Żejtun C. vs Hibernians 20.30
St Andrews vs Sta Lucia 17.00
Sliema W. vs Marsaxlokk 20.30