Preview Day 18: Valletta vs Tarxien Published on: 16-01-2016

Leaders Valletta kick off a potentially season-defining week this afternoon with a tricky match against the in-form Tarxien Rainbows at the Tedesco Stadium.

Given that Valletta face rivals Birkirkara in an FA Trophy Last 16 tie on Wednesday and neighbouring
foes Floriana in the derby today week, a win would not only tighten their grip on top spot in the standings,
it would also galvanise their morale ahead of next week’s important games.

Yet, the task facing the Citizens today is anything but straightforward as Tarxien further cemented their hard-to-beat tag last weekend with a 3-0 dismissal of Floriana.
Valletta coach Paul Zammit is bracing himself for a stern test. “Tarxien are one of the teams that have constantly proved that the work they’ve been doing since the start of the season, is bearing fruit,” Zammit told Times of Malta.

“They possess valid players who, collectively, make a strong squad. From the first round, Tarxien have
shown that they can give a rough ride to any team. “They have won direct encounters with teams of the same level but they have also made it hard for more-quoted sides.

“It will be a difficult game but, at this moment in time, we need to remain concentrated on our work.
We’re aware of Tarxien’s potential and we respect them but we must believe in our qualities.” Valletta survived a scare last weekend as they needed a last-gasp goal, scored by substitute Jurgen Suda, to take the three points at the expense of strugglers Naxxar Lions.

Although their showing fell below expectations, Zammit was heartened by his team’s never-saydie
attitude. “We’ve had a number of games this season when our performance was not good but we still managed to scrape the points, either through a moment of individual brilliance or thanks to the impact made by the substitutions.

“The build-up to the Naxxar game was difficult and I could feel that the players were suffering from
fatigue, mentally and physically. We had to fight really hard for the points but I prefer to look at the positive
rather than the negatives.”

Defender Ryan Camilleri and Italian midfielder Claudio Pani are  gunning for a first-team recall after
suspension forced them to miss the Naxxar game but left-back Ian Azzopardi must serve a one-match
ban today.

The departure of Njongo Priso, in Turkey for talks with two clubs, has reduced the attacking options at
Zammit’s disposal but on the plus side, midfielder Llywelyn Cremona could be named in the squad after making good progress in his recovery from an ankle injury.

On the back of his team’s strong display in their last match, Tarxien coach Jacques Scerri is likely to
select the same team but he may be tempted to make one change as highly-rated Brazilian defender
Bruno Oliveira returns from suspension.
While acknowledging that a difficult assignment lies in store for Tarxien, Scerri is undaunted by the
challenge. “In these games, Tarxien are the underdogs,” Scerri said. “We are playing without pressure
but we always try to give our best. It’s a big ask for us but our approach is always the same… it has paid off in our matches against Balzan and Floriana.

“The main thing about our team is that we have several players who are determined to prove critics
wrong after struggling for first-team opportunities at other clubs. “We know that Valletta have a
formidable team. They are on a winning run but we go out on the pitch with the same mindset… we
try to enjoy ourselves and give our 100 per cent.”

Valletta’s metamorphosis from outsiders to title candidates has confounded critics after the Whites
revamped their squad last summer but the Tarxien coach is not surprised. “You can never write off a club of Valletta’s stature as they have history, knowhow and experience on their side,” Scerri remarked.

“These qualities give them such a big push. They may lack a bit of strength-in-depth but they’ve got
some talented individuals in their squad, the likes of Abdelkarim Nafti, Federico Falcone, Jhonnattann
Benitez and Romeo Romau, players who can make a difference on the day.”
First round: Valletta vs Tarxien Rainbows 3-1.

Source - Times of Malta