Valletta face tough challenge in Azerbaijan Published on: 22-07-2014
Valletta FC have an arduous task to prolong their stay in this season’s UEFA Champions League as they look to overturn a 1-0 deficit away at FC Qarabag in the return leg of the second qualifying round this evening (kick-off: 6.30pm).
An early goal by Cicero Marinaldo Da Silva gave Qarabag a 1-0 victory last week and the Azeri champions will fancy their chances of finishing the job in front of their own fans at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium today to set up a match-up against crack Austrian side FC Salzburg.
Despite the upset of losing the home leg, Valletta coach Gilbert Agius will surely have been encouraged with the fighting qualities displayed by his players at the National Stadium as they defended stoutly for much of the match and were also dangerous each time they pushed forward in quick forays.
Agius is forced to at least make one change to his starting formation as new signing Ryan Camilleri is ruled out by suspension after he was harshly shown a straight red card by Swiss referee Adrien Jaccottet for what looked like a legitimate challenge in the penalty area on Leonardo.
The City coach could be tempted to replace Camilleri with young Siraj Arab or shift Roderick Briffa to a right-back position.
Australian winger Adrian Zahra is back in contention after recovering full fitness but goalkeeper Manuel Bartolo and young midfielder Llywelyn Cremona have not made the trip to the former Soviet republic as they are still nursing injury.
Valletta are expected to adopt a prudent approach this evening, with Lateef Elford-Aliyu favourite to retain the lone striker berth ahead of Raphael Kooh-Sohna and Abdelkarim Nafti deployed just behind the English forward.
The match is likely to draw a bumper crowd at the 31,000-seater FC Qarabag stadium as the home team are bidding to reach the group stages of the elite competition for the first time after winning their first league title in 21 years last season.
Today, Qarabag will again bank on the speed and power of striker Reynaldo. Last season, the Brazilian was the club’s leading scorer with 22 goals.
N. Vella, Y. Cini, L. Dimech, J. Caruana, I. Azzopardi, R. Briffa, I. Zammit, H. Faria, R. Fenech, S. Bajada, R. Kooh Sohna, L. Montebello, H. Al Kamali, S. Arab, A. Zahra, A. Nafti, L. Elford Alliyu.
Referee: Sergei Tsinkevich (Belarus FA).
Source - Times of Malta.
Source - Times of Malta.