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Apollon's Cuschieri ready for Hibernians reunion

"I'm very excited about playing against Hibernians, just like when I used to play in Malta," Apollon midfielder Rachel Cuschieri told UEFA.com as Malta's champions travel to Cyprus.

Hibernians celebrate retaining the Maltese title
Hibernians celebrate retaining the Maltese title ©Domenic Aquilina

Malta's Hibernians will face a familiar opponent in Cyprus when they begin their UEFA Women's Champions League campaign on Tuesday.

Hosting qualifying round Group 3 are an Apollon LFC side featuring Malta midfielder Rachel Cuschieri, formerly of Hibernians' rivals Birkirkara. Cuschieri, who played in three European campaigns for Birkirkara before helping Apollon to the round of 32 for the fifth straight season last year – scoring in her first game against Gintra Universitetas – is looking forward to meeting her former club's fierce rivals.

"I'm very excited about playing against Hibernians, just like when I used to play in Malta," the 23-year-old Cuschieri told UEFA.com. "Those were the games I always looked forward to. I would never have thought I would play against them again, especially in a big competition like the Champions League. I'm really looking forward to playing them and hopefully helping my side get a good result."

Rachel Cuschieri (centre) in her Birkirkara days
Rachel Cuschieri (centre) in her Birkirkara days©Domenic Aquilina

While Apollon are seeking a sixth straight qualification for the last 32, no Maltese side has ever made it past this round and Hibernians lost all three games in their qualifying group debut last term. Coach Keith Gouder, whose team did the domestic treble last season, finishing nine points clear of Birkirkara, is aware of the challenge ahead against Iceland's Stjarnan, Apollon and Faroese tournament ever-presents KÍ.

"It's always an honour to represent your country and we as a team will try our best to give positive performances. But we face a real test in the form of our opponents," Gouder said. "It's also a big setback being without Maltese internationals Ylenia Carabott and Jade Flask who are both playing in Sweden until September. We have therefore signed four players on loan so that we have a deeper squad: Swieqi Ladies duo Kate Galea and Becky Naudi, Gozitan midfielder Emma Xuereb and Pembroke goalkeeper Rosemarie Baldacchino."