Ħamrun Spartans will make their return to European football after an absence of 30 years when they face Armenian side Alashkert in the UEFA Conference League first qualifying round first leg tie in Yerevan on Thursday afternoon (kick-off: 17.00).
The Spartans are aware of the difficulties awaiting them against the Armenian side who have made giant strides in European football in the past few years and last season managed to reach the group stages of the Conference League.
Added to that, Branko Nisevic have made several changes to his squad, bringing in 11 new faces this season and also several new personnel in the technical staff too, thus the team needs a bit of time to start firing on all cylinders.
Still, the Ħamrun Spartans coach has been pleased with the effort of his players so far and is confident they can pull off a positive performance on Thursday.
“Obviously for us to be playing in Europe after 30 years is a great achievement,” Nisevic said.
“We arrived here with a squad that underwent major reconstruction in the close season, bringing in 11 new players. We are aware that we are going to face a team who has a lot of experience in Europe, particularly after playing in the group stages of the Conference League last season.
“But our main goal is to try and show our real value and ability and try and show our real value.”
Nisevic said that the Spartans main goal today was simple – to try and ensure they keep the tie alive ahead of next week’s second leg.
“Our goal is to try and get the best possible result so that we can keep this tie open until next week’s second leg, which I believe will turn out to be decisive,” the former Malta national team assistant coach said.
“Alashkert are a strong side, they have some national team players and a very solid midfield with some talented Brazilian and Georgian players, so it won’t be easy.
“But my team has already given some good indications in pre-season and if we can build on what we have shown so far we are more than capable of causing them problems.
“As always, it will be very important that we focus on our game and ensure that can adopt our game plan to perfection. The players are looking forward to it and hopefully we can get the result we want.”
Nisevic has almost a full squad available with the only absentees being goalkeeper Pablo Sanchez, who is in his final stage of recovery from a serious knee injury, and midfielder Stefan Cassar who is nursing a foot injury.