Birkirkara v Hearts: Gareth Sciberras rues ground switch for hosts

Hearts training
Hearts trained at the Hibernians Stadium on Wednesday
Europa League qualifying: Birkirkara v Hearts
Date: Thursday, 14 July Venue: Hibernians Stadium, Malta Kick-off: 19:30 BST
Coverage: Updates on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online & BBC Sport website

Gareth Sciberras says Birkirkara are at a disadvantage by having the home leg of their Europa League qualifier with Hearts moved to a different venue.

Birkirkara's Ta' Qali National Stadium is under development and Thursday's match will be played at the home of Hibernians in Paulo.

Malta also host matches at the Ta' Qali ground.

"The downside is obviously playing in the national stadium would be better for a tie like this." Sciberras said.

"Having said that, with a couple of thousand people here the atmosphere can get really intense for a very competitive encounter."

Birkirkara defeated Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia in the first qualifying round and have competed regularly in the early stages of the Uefa Cup and Europa League since the 1990s - a record they are extremely proud of.

Gareth Sciberras and David Alaba
Sciberras (left) playing for Malta in a recent friendly against Austria

"I think we are the only Maltese club that has been competing 17 years on the trot in European competitions," captain Sciberras, 33, told BBC Scotland.

"We are one of the most successful clubs on the island and we have always been challenging for honours. There has never been a season when the club hasn't enhanced the squad and challenged for the honours on the island."

Sciberras believes the main aim of Thursday's encounter at Hibernians Stadium is to ensure next week's return leg at Tynecastle is meaningful and they are still in contention to progress.

"Keeping the tie alive is really important for us," added the Malta midfielder.

"The most important thing is not conceding a goal but at the same time you can't be defending for 90 minutes.

"We will be looking to pose a dangerous threat whenever we have the ball. Hopefully, we will be up for the challenge."

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