Preview - Day 06 Valletta vs Hibs Published on: 25-09-2016
It says everything about the unpredictability of the 2016/17 BOV Premier League that champions Valletta and Hibernians, runners-up last term, find themselves under pressure to stay in touch with the
pacesetters ahead of their first meeting this season.
A 2-0 loss to Floriana spoiled Valletta’s unbeaten start while Hibs succumbed to their second defeat
after going down 2-0 to sole leaders Balzan in midweek.
While these are still early days, both Valletta and Hibs will be mindful of the dangers of falling further
adrift amid expectations of a fierce title race involving potentially five teams.
Valletta coach Paul Zammit has admitted that City are passing through a rocky spell, a situation
further compounded by the longterm absence of key midfielder Roderick Briffa, who had cruciate
surgery in Rome last week, and the calf injury suffered by Claudio Pani, but the experienced tactician expects a reaction from his team.
“I must say that our current situation has not occurred overnight because we knew that this could
happen,” Zammit said.
“It’s not as if we are suddenly struggling because we lost the derby. Losing to Floriana hurts Valletta as a club, our group of players and the fans, it’s normal, but we’re aware that we are facing certain difficulties, ranging from injuries, players who are off form and episodes during games which are going against us.
“I believe that the best way to emerge from this difficult situation is to play again. True, we already
have another tough game coming up but this is the best thing that could happen to us.”
In Wednesday’s clash, Valletta had more possession but found it hard to create openings.
It was the second successive match in which Valletta dropped points after having surrendered a
two-goal lead against Balzan.
News that left-back Leandro Aguirre received a two-match ban following his late red card in the
derby will have done little to raise Valletta’s spirits but Zammit issued a rallying cry to his players.
“I prefer to concentrate on my house,” Zammit said. “And I’m asking every member of this family to be humble and fight for a common cause. We have a chance to bounce back but it will
not be easy.
“I’ve watched Hibs play. Their performances have improved since the start of the championship
and could have taken something from their last game (against Balzan).
“We will come across an organised team and for us to prevail, it would have to be our day. We have to be up for it.”
Hibs’ 2-0 defeat to Balzan left them on the nine-point mark, one adrift of Valletta and four behind
Balzan. Despite his frustration at what he described as an outrageous decision by referee Philip Farrugia to award Balzan a penalty – converted by Bojan Kaljevic – after Alfred Effiong went down in the box seven minutes time, Miller preferred to focus on the positives.
“We were the better side but the referee made a decision that was outrageous,” Miller said.
“That was the difference in the game. We didn’t deserve to lose but I can only take pluses from the
Miller acknowledged that the players were gutted about the manner of the loss to Balzan but
insisted that, whatever the results, he will continue with the project he has started.
“A defeat always affects the players’ confidence,” Miller said. “We have set ourselves a way of
doing things, by also involving the young players, and we are staying loyal to them. There is a transition going on at Hibs and we need to do it smoothly.
“The road will be bumpy but it’s how you deal with the setbacks that counts. We know that we have
to keep working hard.”
Miller is relishing the prospect of facing Valletta. “I relish this kind of matches. Really, I prefer to face one of the top teams rather than a smaller side that plays defensively,” he said.
“This is a 50-50 game. Valletta are the champions but this is a new year and things change. They
are coming from a defeat and had some strange results lately but the league is what it is.
“We try to do our best along the week and hopefully it comes out during the game.” Midfielder Bjorn Kristensen was taken to hospital on Thursday night after a collision with Effiong left him with a deep gash on his forehead, which needed nine stitches.
He is expected to receive the allclear to face Valletta tonight but Miller has other injury concerns.
Goalkeeper Andrew Hogg, who missed the Balzan defeat, is still struggling with back pain while
Marcelo Dias is doubtful. Rui Da Gracia Gomes and Diosdado Mbele, both from Equatorial Guinea, are still sidelined.
Source - Times of Malta
Source - Times of Malta