Title destiny still in our hands Published on: 05-04-2019

Valletta vs Gzira U.

Valletta coach Danilo Doncic wants his players to show their real character as the Malta champions face a decisive test to their championship ambitions when they face third-placed Gżira United on Sunday evening (kickoff 6pm).

The Citizens are still licking their wounds from their derby debacle to Floriana last Sunday that left them just one point clear of nearest rivals Hibernians and five adrift of Gżira United.

That defeat and the tight margins in this season’s title race have inevitably piled the pressure on the Citizens who could find themselves in second place on Sunday should Hibernians beat Birkirkara this evening.

But Doncic, who knows too well what it takes to with the Premier League title after leading the Citizens to the double last season, is trying not to let the pressure effect his players and said that he is confident that his team will provide the right response against the resurgent Maroons.

“The defeat to Floriana was hard to fathom for us,” Doncic said.

“It was our first defeat in the second round and came at the wrong time as had we beaten Floriana things would have been much different as we would have opened a commanding four point lead on our rivals.

“But it’s useless crying on spilt milk and this week we tried to regroup and recharge our batteries as on Sunday we have another very difficult match. Gżira are in very good form, they are scoring a lot of goals and apart from challenging for a place in Europe they have an added motivation that with victory against us they would be back in the title race.

“However, I have a lot of belief in my players. For us nothing has changed as we are still firmly in charge of our destiny. Should we win our last four matches we will again be crowned champions for a second time so hopefully the players provide the right response on Sunday.”

Injury problems

Doncic cannot field his strongest formation as defender Jonathan Caruana and Rowen Muscat are unlikely to be fit for the match while Matteo Piciollo and Bogdan Gavrila are out injured. Added to that Miguel Alba must serve a one-match ban.

Gżira coach Jesmond Zerafa, who led the Citizens to back-toback titles earlier in his career, is not giving too much importance on Valletta’s recent struggles and said that his players must be prepared to contend with a strong backlash from his opponents.

“For us, this match has a lot of importance as a win would not only put us closer to our main goal of achieving European qualification but also could put us back in the reckoning for the league title,” Zerafa said.

“However, it’s important that we keep our feet firmly to the ground as a defeat against Valletta could also put our third-placing in peril so we can’t afford any lapses.

“People are talking a lot about Valletta’s loss to Floriana but I don’t think it will change much for the Valletta players who have a lot of experience to contend with the pressure of challenging for the honours.

“Personally, my biggest task is to ensure that my players are prepared mentally to face a team of the calibre of Valletta. Time and again teams facing Valletta look frightened on the pitch and fail to perform and we must make sure this does not happen to us on Sunday.

“Our biggest battle on Sunday will be psychological and I hope the players will be up to it.”

Zerafa has no fresh worries for Sunday’s match against Valletta and it remains to be seen whether the Gżira coach will hand Amadou Samb a first-team start after he recovered from an ankle injury.

Source - timesofmalta.com