Matchday 02: Preview Valletta vs Sliema W Published on: 28-08-2019

Valletta vs Sliema W

Valletta and Sliema Wanderers will be looking to put behind them a disappointing start to their Premier League campaign when they go head to head tomorrow evening at the National Stadium (kick-off: 8.30pm).

The Malta champions kicked off their title defence in disappointing fashion when they slumped to a 3-2 defeat to Premier League newcomers Sta Lucia.

The Wanderers, on the other hand, came up short against Balzan when they were on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat. For Valletta this is the second successive campaign that they had kicked off their commitments with a defeat.

Last year, the Citizens lost their opening two matches of the season and still went on to win the title in dramatic fashion when defeating Hibernians in the championship decider.

Coach Darren Abdilla is expecting a strong response from his players as they look to kickstart their campaign with a convincing showing, and more importantly, the three points against the Wanderers.

“We never expected to lose against Sta Lucia but we should give credit where it is due,” he told theTimes of Malta.

“The fact that we didn’t know much about our opponents, Sta Lucia caught us by surprise, and adding to that, a series of individual errors we found ourselves on the backfoot. In the second half we tried to fix some things and in fact we completely dominated the match but it was too little to late as the damage had been done.

“The defeat was a big blow but these are still early days. Now that is all in the past, and our full focus is on our next match against Sliema Wanderers where we need to pick up all three points.”

The Valletta coach is again expected to be without central defender Jonathan Caruana and Montenegrin striker Bojan Kaljevic who are recovering from surgery.

On a more positive note, Valletta may well parade a new signing against Sliema. In fact, the Citizens are expected to complete the transfer of a Georgian international midfielder and should he be registered in time he will form part of the squad for tomorrow’s match.

Abdilla said that he is aware that it will not be easy for his team to get back to winning ways against a Sliema side who, too, are looking to bounce back from an opening day defeat.

“There are no easy matches in the Premier League, and that is a fact,” Abdilla said.

“Sliema have a point to prove after their defeat to Balzan and they will be keen to pick up their first points against us.

“It will be important that we focus on our own performance and the players know that if they put on a similar showing to the one we did against Sta Lucia we have no chance of successfully defending our title.

“I spoke a lot with the players on where we need to improve and the players are determined to turn the page with a strong performance against Sliema.”

Sliema will surely be hoping to try and take advantage from Valletta’s indifferent start to the campaign and pick up their first points of the season.

Despite falling to a 2-1 defeat to Balzan, coach Alfonso Greco was still encouraged by the his players’ display on Saturday and said that he feels that if they can maintain the same level of performance against Valletta he is confident they can break their duck.

“I expect from my players the same effort that they have put in against Balzan,” the Italian coach, who is back for another stint at the Wanderers, said.

“Against Balzan I was pleased with my players. May be we lacked a bit of cutting edge to make the most of a few scoring chances.

“We will have in front of us a Valletta team who is still hurting from their defeat from Sta Lucia and they will be determined to bounce back in style.

“But I have great faith in my players and hopefully they produce a good fighting performance that will enable us to get a positive result.”

Greco has no selection worries for tomorrow’s match even though he is still unsure whether he will have midfielder Ryan Fenech available for selection as the veteran midfielder is understood to being courted by Birkirkara who have opened talks with the Sliema Wanderers hierarchy.

The Blues will give a debut to new signing Saydou Sow, a Senegalese striker who joined the club yesterday.

The Italian coach said that he was surprised by the response from his players and said that although these are still early days, the team is already following his playing philosophy and that only augurs well for the rest of the season.

“We have started the season very well, physically the players look in good shape and that augurs well,” Greco said.

“To be honest I was surprised to see the team showing their own identity so early in the season. It’s still early days to say how far can we go this season but the most important thing is that we continue to work hard and ensure that we put in strong performances every week and if we do that I have no doubt that results will come.”