Floriana coach Enzo Potenza has called on his players to step up their focus as they take on Romanian giants CFR Cluj in the Champions League first qualifying round tie at the Centenary Stadium on Wednesday (kick-off: 9pm).
For the Greens, Wednesday’s tie represents a return to UEFA’s elite club competition after an absence of 27 years and although on paper it looks like a formidable challenge, the Floriana coach said the change in format for this season’s qualifiers, which sees ties being decided in a one-off match, could favour their hopes of staging an upset.
“We are bracing ourselves for a difficult challenge,” Potenza told the Times of Malta.
“CFR Cluj are a team that have made giant strides forward in Europe during the last decade. To be honest, we always expected to be drawn against a superior opponent given that our European ranking is quite low.
“The change in format to European qualifiers for this season might favour our cause. The fact that everything is decided in 90 minutes could work in our favour. Everyone saw what happened in the Champions League this season with teams like Manchester City, Juventus and Atletico Madrid beaten by less-quoted opponents.
“In a one-off match anything can happen. The most important thing is that we keep up our concentration levels until the final whistle as a lapse of concentration could be fatal.”
Floriana warmed up for tonight’s European tie with a short training camp in Italy and Potenza sounded pleased with his team’s preparations.
“It was a very useful exercise for us,” Potenza said of the team’s training camp in Italy.
“We tried to work on various areas during our time in Italy to ensure we arrive for this match in the best possible shape.
“I am pleased that we have returned from Italy with a full squad, and everyone is available for the match.”
Asked to give an insight on the strength of CFR Cluj, Potenza said that the Romanian side are strong in many departments.
“CFR Cluj boast a very strong group of players,” Potenza said.
“We are talking about a team who last season reached the group stages of the Europa League and also managed to beat Lazio during a time when the Italians were doing so well in the Serie A.
“They are guided by a coach, who in my opinion, is capable of coaching in any championship around the world, so we need to be at our best.
“At the back, they have an influential defender in Paulo Vinicius, while upfront Lacina Traore is a very prolific forward. It will be very important that we are very organized tactically and don’t concede too many spaces as they will surely punish us.”
Despite the tough challenge awaiting his team, Potenza still sounded positive on his team’s chances for tonight’s showdown.
“All I am asking my players is that they give their 100 per cent,” Potenza said.
“It’s important that take the pitch with the right frame of mind.
“For our players, this will be an important learning curve and have to make the most of the opportunity.
“My only regret is that the match will be played behind closed doors. It’s a pity that we will not have our fans behind us, and I can assure you that we will try and give something extra for them.”