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Watch: New-look Valletta eye positive start against champions Hibs

The wait is finally over for Maltese football fans as the BOV Premier League kicks off on Friday when the opening two matches of the new season will be played.

This has been an emotionally-filled summer for Maltese football fans following the heroics of Hibernians, Gżira United and Ħamrun Spartans in the UEFA Conference League as the three Maltese sides all successfully reached the third qualifying round.

The Spartans went even further to move on the brink of a place in the group stages as they are currently involved in the Play Off round of the UEFA competition.

As from Friday, the attention will now turn to the Premier League when Birkirkara face Sirens in the opening match of the season, followed by the clash between Balzan and Żebbuġ Rangers.

Champions Hibernians will open their title defence on Sunday against a new-look Valletta side who are determined to bounce back from a disappointing 2021-22 campaign which have seen them fail to qualify for European football.

The Citizens are now under the charge of Thane Micallef who succeeded Danilo Doncic as first-team coach.

Micallef last season impressed when helping Gudja United attain an historic place in the Top Six in the Premier League and the Citizens are hopeful he can help them to return to the top of Maltese football.

“We are aware of the difficult task awaiting us when we face the champions Hibernians in the opening day of the season,” Micallef told the Times of Malta during the launch of the team’s kits sponsorship with Hudson Group through their leading brand NIKE and Intersport franchise.

“Hibernians have enjoyed a strong run in UEFA club competitions this summer and have the advantage of having played six competitive matches already.

“But at the same time, I am really pleased with the work we have carried out in the last few weeks.

“We have played a number of friendlies in preparation for the new season and the team have shown remarkable improvement from one match to the other and that is very encouraging.

“Obviously for us at Valletta, we are coming from several changes both in the first-team squad but also in the technical staff so we are aware that we have to be patient as there is a process that we need to go through before we can see the best of the team.

“One thing that I was pleased was the commitment and dedication shown by the players and I’m sure that we are capable of starting to give some glimpse of our potential against Hibernians and play a very good match.”

Valletta have been very active in the transfer market this summer as they have brought in a number of new overseas players to the club.

In fact, the Citizens have signed Ryan Cheng, Bradley Kamdem, Joseph Willy, Ulrich Nnomo, Oke Akpoveta, Brandon Paiber, Enzo Ruiz, Killian Bevis and Cain Formosa.

Club skipper Jean Borg said that the Valletta players are determined to put behind them what was a disappointing 2021-22 campaign and are determined to put the club where it belongs.

“Everyone knows that last season was very disappointing,” Borg said.

“But now that is behind us and we are looking to the start of the new season and our opening match against Hibernians.

“It will not be an easy match as Hibernians enjoyed a strong run in Europe, but I am sure that with help of all the players and the new technical staff we can give them a good run for their money.

“This summer we have strengthened the squad and we are capable of putting the club back where it belongs.”

On his part, Andrea Pisanu, the Hibernians coach, is pleased with the progress shown by the Malta champions in recent weeks but has warned his players not to underestimate the threat posed by Valletta FC.

“I am expecting a very difficult match,” Pisanu told the Times of Malta.

“We are playing against a big club like Valletta FC who are now led by a very intelligent coach who will surely prepare his team in the best possible way.

“The first matches of the season are always a bit difficult to predict, particularly when you play against sides who did not play in Europe so you don’t know what to expect.

“But from our part, we need to continue to build on all the good things achieved this summer during our run in the UEFA club competitions.

“I want the players to show the same mentality and give everything they have. I believe that if we play attractive attacking football we can achieve the result we are looking for.

“Our goal is to try and impose our game as our goal remains that to continue to improve with every game that we play.”

PROGRAMME

PLAYING ON FRIDAY

CENTENARY STADIUM

Birkirkara vs Sirens 18.30

Balzan vs Żebbuġ R.            20.45

PLAYING ON SATURDAY

TONY BEZZINA STADIUM

Gżira United vs Sta Lucia    18.30

Floriana vs Pietà H. 20.45

CENTENARY STADIUM

Mosta vs Gudja United             19.30

PLAYING ON SUNDAY

TONY BEZZINA STADIUM

Valletta vs Hibernians 18.30

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