Choppy waters may lie ahead for Maltese champions Marsaxlokk FC as they prepare to make their UEFA Champions League qualifying debut on Wednesday.
Choppy waters may lie ahead for Maltese champions Marsaxlokk FC as they prepare to make their UEFA Champions League qualifying debut against FK Sarajevo this week.
English coach Brian Talbot led the side from the picturesque fishing village on the south of the island to their maiden Maltese title last season, but their first piece of footballing silverware has preceded major changes at the club. With president Victor Scriha having stepped down to take up a similar role with Valletta FC, Marsaxlokk have also lost several of their top players.
Maltese international striker André Schembri has left the club to join German second division side TuS Eintracht Braunschweig, goalkeeper Justin Haber has left for Greek outfit Haidari FC after falling out with the club and experienced defender Luke Dimech has returned to England, looking to find another league club after spells with Chester City FC and Mansfield Town FC.
As if that were not bad enough, Marsaxlokk are resigned to losing striker Daniel Bogdanovic, who scored 30 league goals last season, to local rivals Sliema Wanderers FC. Now Talbot must hope that 24-year-old Daniel Webb, a former Southampton FC player who previously played under him at Rushden & Diamonds FC, can fill Bogdanovic's substantial goalscoring boots.
"There is no doubt that it will be difficult," Talbot told uefa.com. "But despite losing key players of the calibre of Dimech, Schembri and Bogdanovic, I am confident that we can put up a very good showing in both matches [against Sarajevo]. This will be our first ever venture in a big UEFA competition - the UEFA Champions League - and I am sure we will live up to it."
Captain Carlo Mamo, nursing a groin injury, is fighting to be fit for Wednesday's first qualifying round first leg in Ta' Qali but is equally optimistic about his beleaguered side's hopes. "Despite losing three key players from last season, I still feel we are in the right mentality to take on Sarajevo," he told uefa.com. "It will be difficult but we will give it everything we have." After the return in Sarajevo on 24 July, a glamour tie against KRC Genk of Belgium awaits the winners.