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Sliema hoping for hat-trick

Published: Monday 6 September 2004, 13.00CET
Double winners Sliema Wanderers FC are aiming for a third straight Maltese Premier League title when the new season begins on Tuesday. features

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Published: Monday 6 September 2004, 13.00CET

Sliema hoping for hat-trick

Double winners Sliema Wanderers FC are aiming for a third straight Maltese Premier League title when the new season begins on Tuesday.

Sliema Wanderers FC are aiming for a third straight Maltese Premier League title when the season starts on 7 September, having passed a special milestone in 2003/04.

Aquilina departure
When they completed the domestic double with the Maltese Trophy it marked the 100th honour of their history, a number that increased when Sliema lifted the Euro Challenge Cup in July to begin coach Edward Aquilina's last term in office on the right note.

Mixed fortunes
However, they exited the UEFA Champions League, losing 6-1 on aggregate to Lithuania's FBK Kaunas in the first qualifying round, after which key striker Michael Mifsud joined Norway's Lillestrøm SK and left-back Carlo Mamo went to Marsaxlokk FC.

Mifsuds arrive
Still, the one Mifsud was replaced by two others, both from Hibernians FC. Striker Adrian Mifsud was first to arrive while Miguel Mifsud signed a three-year deal to replace Mamo. Other incomings were Claude Mattocks on a season's loan from Floriana FC and defender Darren Debono.

'Team to beat'
Midfielder Stefan Giglio, recently voted Maltese Footballer of the Year, told "Sliema will be the team to beat this season. The team is really focused, and our aim will be to win the Premier League for the third year running."

Birkirkara determined
Birkirkara FC were pipped to the title by four points and lost to Sliema in the Trophy semi-finals, but they are determined to dethrone their rivals this time around. They performed encouragingly in being pipped 5-4 on aggregate by Albanian side FK Partizani in the UEFA Cup first qualifying round, and have a stable squad under coach Stephen Azzopardi.

Hibernians weakened
Hibernians, third last year, have lost Adrian Mifsud to Sliema after 79 goals in 111 top-flight games, along with namesake Miguel, and departed the UEFA Intertoto Cup early by losing to Croatia's NK Slaven Belupo.

Marsaxlokk ambition
Their position could be under threat from Marsaxlokk, beaten Trophy finalists last term. That earned a UEFA Cup debut, which ended with a 3-0 aggregate defeat by Slovenia's NK Primorje. Not only has Mamo signed from Sliema, but Atanas Marinov is the new coach after leaving Valletta and bringing midfielder Ivan Zammit with him.

Deanov appointment
Pietà Hotspurs FC also have a new Bulgarian coach in Georgi Deanov, his second stint with the club. Floriana, meanwhile, have appointed former Maltese international Willie Vassallo, returning to the island after 27 years in Australia.

Valletta changes
Valletta FC are keen to win their first championship since 2001, but with the departures of Zammit, Daniel Theuma and Debono, new coach Joseph John Aquilina has turned to Jaroslaw Marx, Sharlon Pace and Mark Galea with Massimo Grima extending his loan from Sliema.

Italian influence
Also busy in the transfer market are Msida St. Joseph FC, who escaped relegation on the final day of last season. Italian Roberto Goveani has taken over as president and appointed Naples-born Mario Petrone as coach. Among the newcomers are Maltese international midfielder Roderick Bajada from demoted Hamrun Spartans FC, and four Italians - Gennaro Torianiello, Patrick Giua, Fabio Sorrentino and Massimliano Guido.

Promoted duo
Hamrun and Balzan Youths FC have been replaced by Saint Patrick FC and Lija Athletic FC, and survival is the goal for them. Lija have turned to former player Ilir Pelinku as coach and president Charles Scerri said: "All our players have something they will cherish - the chance to play in the Maltese Premier League."

Last updated: 07/09/04 11.01CET