Preview Day 14: valletta vs Birkirkara Published on: 05-12-2015

Birkirkara coach Giovanni Tedesco likened it to ‘Palermo vs Catania’ while Paul Zammit, his Valletta
counterpart, has high hopes that today’s game will live up to its lofty billing.

Separated by two points at the top, the two rivals will go head to head for the second time this season
knowing that a win would strengthen their position in what promises to be a fierce title race.

“These type of games go beyond the 4-3-3s or 4-2-3-1s,” Tedesco, who took over from Zammit last
summer, told Times of Malta. “This fixture is like Palermo-Catania or Inter-Milan.

“It’s all about showing the greater desire to win and the willingness to fight… this is what makes the difference in these matches.”

Valletta geared up for the domestic campaign in a low-key manner after overhauling their squad in the
summer but their status as joint leaders with Hibernians has made a mockery of those gloomy earlyseason forecasts.

Tedesco is not surprised. “Away from the pre-season declarations I made and whether these were misunderstood or whatever, how can I be surprised with Valletta’s position?” Tedesco remarked.

“Valletta have always been in the top three places. “They have a coach (Zammit) who has done well plus the fact that Valletta have signed good foreigners. In Federico Falcone, they have a striker who can lead the forward line by himself and (Njongo) Priso has the technical ability to decide any game.

“That said, we are certainly not lacking anything compared to Valletta and this showed in the  corresponding first-round game which was decided by Priso’s individual brilliance five minutes from time.”

The 2-1 reverse to Valletta in September remains Birkirkara’s only defeat in 13 games but they have
been involved in five draws.

Their failure to overcome Naxxar Lions who salvaged a draw after being two goals and a man down,
augmented the pressure on Tedesco and his players but in midweek, the Stripes attained a much needed boost with a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Tarxien.

“I was happy with our secondhalf performance,” Tedesco said of the Tarxien game. “In the first half, we were off rhythm and I wasn’t pleased. At half-time, I asked my players to give their all in all aspects of the game and they did a lot better.

“If we really want to maintain the pace at the summit , we need to give not our 100 per cent but 110”
Tedesco must cope without two key players as Italian striker Fabrizio Miccoli, who is expected to leave the club in January, failed to shake off a calf problem and Paul Fenech is recovering from a thigh injury.

There has been speculation that Fenech has fallen out with Tedesco but the latter dismissed these
rumours, describing his exchange of words with the Malta midfielder as “a normal discussion between
coach and player”.

Valletta coach Paul Zammit is in no doubt that his former team will go all out to show their true mettle.
“No team has managed to be really consistent so far this season,” Zammit said.

“Birkirkara, like all the other teams, have not been consistent but they are only two points off the top.
“I’m convinced that it will be a good game. In my opinion, big teams show up in big games and
I’m sure that Birkirkara will be looking at this match as an opportunity to underline their true potential.”

With Balzan and Hibs next up for Valletta after their meeting with Birkirkara, Zammit suggested that
his team’s showings in their coming three games will offer an indication as to whether the Citizens have
what it takes to last the distance.

“We knew before this match that in the December 1-20 period, we have four games against strong
opponents,” Zammit said. “There are important points at stake and the next few games will determine which teams gain some consistency going into the Christmas period.

“We are taking it game by game. Birkirkara are strong and, together with Hibs, they have quality but
also quantity, but I’m only thinking about my team.

“We are improving as a squad. These are the kind of tests that make you realise whether you are
capable of competing with the top teams until the end of the season.”

With Ian Azzopardi out after seeing red in the 4-2 win over Sliema, Zammit may have to indulge in
some positional tinkering. Argentine defender Juan Cruz Gill is doubtful with an adductor strain and midfielder Roderick Briffa has been down with flu.

Jhonnattann has been training regularly but is still awaiting the medical all-clear to resume playing.
Goalkeeper Henry Bonello and midfielder Llywelyn Cremona are expected to be declared fit to play.
First round: Valletta vs Birkirkara 2-1.

Source - Times of Malta