Valletta coach Jesmond Zerafa has called on his players to be wary of the threat posed by a ‘hurt’ Gżira United side as the two big guns go head-to-head in the plum fixtures of Match Day 3 of the BOV Premier League tonight (kick-off: 9.15pm).
Valletta and Gżira United have experience completely contrasting fortunes at the start of the 2020-21 BOV Premier League.
The Lilywhites have put behind them their disappointing showing in this summer Europa League qualifiers when they kicked off their league commitments with two impressive displays which saw them have the better of Birkirkara (4-2) and Balzan (1-0) to lead the way on maximum spoils alongside Ħamrun Spartans.
On the other hand, Gżira United have just one point to show as the Maroons twice conceded late goals as they first slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Floriana and then were held by Tarxien Rainbows to a 1-1 draw.
Jesmond Zerafa was delighted with the approach of his players in the opening two league matches of the season but warned that Gżira United could be a ‘different animal’ particularly after their disappointing start to the season.
“I am quite pleased with my team’s approach so far,” Zerafa told the Times of Malta.
“These are still early days but my players showed great character and more importantly followed a fundamental principle in football as they were tactically organised in both matches and that made it easier for us to complete the job.
“But now we have another difficult match coming up against a Gżira side who are surely hurt by the way the season started for them, particularly, having spent big again in the transfer market. I’m sure that they will be fully determined to turn the page and kickstart their season so we need to be focused.
“Still, I’m looking forward to this challenge and I’m fully confident of my players that they will be up to the job.”
Valletta are expected to be again without defender Jean Borg, who picked up an injury during international duty with Malta U-21, while striker Mario Fontanella is recovering after undergoing surgery. Wingback Eslit Sala, who picked up a knock against Balzan, is touch and go whether he will form part of the squad.
Gżira, on the other hand, will be without midfielder Zack Scerri who has suffered ligament damage in his knee while wing back Dexter Xuereb remains sidelined.
Coach Darren Abdilla said that his players were ‘extremely unlucky’ in their first two outings against Floriana and Tarxien Rainbows but admitted that it was imperative to pick up the three points against Valletta to kickstart their campaign.
“For us winning is all that matters against Valletta,” Abdilla, who was at the helm of the Citizens last season, said.
“We are aware that it will not be easy as we are facing a very strong Valletta side who started the campaign in some style, recording back-to-back victories. But for us it’s all about winning the three points to kick off the campaign.
“Personally, I thought that in the previous two match days we played well and we were the team who created the most scoring opportunities and had the highest percentage of possession but for some reason we failed to put the ball into the net.
“No doubt, that we must be more clinical upfront or else we risk to get punished as happened in the last two matches.”