Albania’s most successful club on track to make Superliga comeback

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 19, 2017 16:52

Albania’s most successful club on track to make Superliga comeback

Story Highlights

  • Having played their first eleven games in the First Division, Tirana top Group B with 28 points, with a seven-point lead over second placed Bylis and are also making a good performance in the Albanian Cup having made it to the quarter final

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TIRANA, Dec. 19 – Albania’s historically most successful club seem on track to make a Superliga comeback next year following an embarrassing first-ever relegation in their almost century-long history in the top flight of the Albanian Superliga.

Having played their first eleven games in the First Division, Tirana top Group B with 28 points, with a seven-point lead over second placed Bylis who have a game in hand, and are also making a good performance in the Albanian Cup having made it to the quarter final.

The Albanian Cup reigning champions recently avenged Superliga team Vllaznia for their relegation decider in last season’s final Superliga fixture to win 2-1 on aggregate and progress to the Cup’s quarter final to face Superliga reigning champions Kukes.

However, the road to promotion is still a long way and Tirana will have to play seven other games to complete the first two stages of its Group B where Bylis are the toughest team, already having surprised the Blue-Whites with a 1-0 away victory in early November.

As the first two stages of its Group B matches complete in late February 2018, Tirana will have to play another play-off stage that sees the top five clubs in both First Division groups contest each other for two promotion places in the Albanian Superliga.

Coach Ze Maria, a former Brazilian international who spent most of his career as a right back with Italian clubs until the mid-2000s, has been in charge since last June facing the tough task of making it to the Albanian Superliga and bringing back irritated fans to the stadium.

“When I first came the situation was a bit problematic as there were players who wanted to leave and others joining. We hope to be back in the Superliga next year. It will not be easy and we are working on this,” Ze Maria has said.

“I have tried to explain to the players that wearing the Tirana shirt and regaining the fans’ trust is not easy,” says the Brazilian, who previously trained teams in Italy and Kenya before joining Tirana.

Tirana have claimed the Albanian Superliga a record 24 times and won the Albania Cup 16 times, but have been poorly performing in the past seven years which have been dominated by Skenderbeu, a club which is making history in Albanian football, having made two Europa League group stage appearances in the past three years.

Financial problems and a boycott by its “Tirana Fanatics” marred Tirana’s performance in the previous season following a good start.

The club’s majority 66 percent stake is owned by Refik Halili, a traditional sponsor of Tirana and the remaining minority stake by the Municipality of Tirana.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 19, 2017 16:52