Preview - Day 19 Valletta vs Bkara Published on: 21-01-2017
Valletta will have more than title ambitions on the line when they take on Birkirkara in the main fixture from the BOV Premier League today (kick-off: 4pm).
The Citizens are still licking their wounds following elimination from the FA Trophy on Wednesday when Alfred Effiong scored deep into stoppage time to put Balzan through to the last eight.
Valletta are currently sharing third spot with Floriana in the league, five points adrift of leaders Balzan. Failure to take maximum spoils this weekend could see them slip further behind in the title race.
City’s task will be anything but straightforward as they face a Birkirkara side that looked a rejuvenated lot over the last couple of weeks and back in business after a gutsy display in a 1-1 draw with Balzan in their last outing.
Valletta coach Paul Zammit admitted that the cup upset was a hard blow and added more pressure on his players.
“The FA Trophy was one of our main objectives for the season so going out after a very poor showing was very disappointing,” Zammit told Times of Malta.
“The team has gone through a lot of changes this month. We lost three key players and the ones coming in need time to settle down.
“This important match comes just three days after the cup exit… we had very little time to recover and there are niggling injuries to contend with as well.
“But we have to react so it’s good to be facing a top team like Birkirkara so soon. This weekend, the fans expect a strong response from our team.”
Valletta are sweating on the fitness of key defender Jonathan Caruana who is struggling with knee trouble while midfielder Rowen Muscat is out to serve a one-match ban after his red card against Balzan on Wednesday.
The Citizens were looking to complete the registration of Argentine forward Maximiliano Velasco in time to play against the Stripes.
“Winning the league is our aim. For sure, we owe it to our fans,” Zammit said.
“We have to embark on a series of positive results now but it’s not going easy as Birkirkara are very strong. Indeed, this will be a test of character for our players.”
Birkirkara, too, have little room for error as they are currently trailing Balzan by seven points.
Last week, the Stripes fought back admirably to clinch a point against Balzan and coach Nikola Jaros wants to see the same kind of determination from this players.
“I was pleased with the spirit in my team,” Jaros said.
“It was a mixed performance really with some ups and downs throughout the 90 minutes but despite everything we kept fighting till the end.
“Now we have another difficult match coming up against a side still hurting from their cup defeat this week. We have to show good tactical discipline and organisation as Valletta have the qualities to make life difficult for us.”
The Croatian coach could be a new face in Maltese league but he knows perfectly well how important matches against Valletta are for Birkirkara. He said his players will need no extra talk to step up their game.
“People here describe the Valletta-Birkirkara as the derby of Malta and I think it cannot get bigger than that,” Jaros, who has a full squad available, remarked.
“Valletta are a club with great tradition and the current league champions so it won’t be difficult to motivate my players. I’m expecting Valletta to come out with all guns blazing as they will be keen to bounce back from their defeat to Balzan.
“We also cannot afford to lose ground with the other front-runners. This is a must-win match for both teams but I’m confident that Birkirkara will rise to the occasion and deliver the goods.”
Source - Times of Malta
Source - Times of Malta