Preview: Europa League 2nd qualifying round FC Utrecht vs Valletta Published on: 20-07-2017

Valletta will be bidding to make club history this evening when the Citizens take on FC Utrecht, of the Netherlands, in the Europa League second qualifying round return leg at the Mandemakers Stadion, Waalwijk (kick-off: 7.30pm).
A goalless draw in last week’s opening leg at the Hibs Stadium has left the tie firmly in the balance.
Although the Dutch side will start as the favourites to progress, Valletta’s brave showing in the first leg has filled the City faithful with renewed optimism that they could upset their more-quoted opponents.
Valletta need to either win or a draw with goals today to reach the third qualifying round of the competition
for the first time in their club history were a tie against either Lech Poznan of Poland or Norway’s Haugesund awaits them.
Valletta coach Zoran Popovic said that his team have everything to gain from today’s match as all the pressure is on FC Utrecht.
“Before the first leg, nobody gave Valletta a chance to progress to the next round,” the Serbian coach told Times of Malta yesterday.
“FC Utrecht were seen as the clear favourites but after last week’s first leg the perception of many changed as we showed that we could give them a good run for their money.
“All pressure is on FC Utrecht as their fans are demanding a win tomorrow to stay on course to reach their pre-season objective of playing in the group stages of the Europa League.
“But I can assure you that we will make life difficult for them.” Popovic has no fresh selection problems for today’s match and can bank on the same group of players that were involved at the Hibs Stadium last week.
New signings Denni Rocha Dos Santos and Raed Ibrahim Saleh are ineligible to play a part tonight as their registration papers had to be filed to UEFA before last week’s first leg.
The Valletta coach said that the first 15 minutes of the match will be crucial for his team’s chances.
“I’m expecting FC Utrecht to hit the ground running and pile a lot of pressure on our defence in the early stages and it will be important for us not to concede a goal,” the former Floriana coach said.
“I believe that the more time passes and the score remains 0-0, the better are our chances of creating an upset as FC Utrecht will surely grow increasingly nervous and we must take advantage of that.”
Last week, Valletta shared the exchanges with FC Utrecht but Popovic warned that his team cannot afford to miss clear-cut scoring chances if they are to progress.
“Looking at our performance last week there were a lot of positives to take,” the Serbian coach said.
“But certainly one area that we have to improve is in front of our opponents goal.
“Surely, FC Utrecht will try and hold the initiative but I’m still confident that we can create good opportunities and hopefully our forwards will be sharp enough to grab what would be a crucial goal.”

Source - Times of Malta