Malta coach Devis Mangia is expected to hand a chance to his fringe players as the national team starts its preparations for the upcoming UEFA Nations League double header when they face Gibraltar in an international friendly at the National Stadium on Wednesday evening (kick-off: 18.00).
This is only the second meeting between the two countries, with the first meeting dating back six years ago when on that occasion Gibraltar, on their international debut, scored a famous 1-0 win over Malta in a friendly in Faro.
That defeat inevitably drew a lot of criticism and there is great expectation among the national team supporters that the team can finally set the record straight against Gibraltar.
But speaking during a news conference, Mangia said that he is not interested in what happened in the past and his only focus is to see his team continue where they had left off last month and take another step forward in their development.
“As a coach, I’m not too interested in what happened in the past,” the former Italy U-21 coach said.
“For me, this match is another step of our work and obviously the priority for me is the performance of my team. Against Gibraltar it will be a good opportunity to give a run out to a number of players who didn’t have a lot time to play and it will be a good opportunity for them to prove that they deserve to be part of this project.
“I’m not thinking for now for the Nations League matches against Andorra or Latvia. I’m focused to see my team continue it’s development and hopefully we can get a positive result that can give us more belief in ourselves.”
The Malta coach hinted that foreign-based trio Zach Muscat, who is on the books of Portuguese side Casa Pia, Teddy Teuma, the midfielder of Royal Union Saint-Gilloise, in Belgium and Colchester United schemer Luke Gambin, may not be included in the starting formation as they only trained once with the team.
Asked where he expects to see most improvement from his players in respect to their first two outings against the Faroe Islands and Latvia, Mangia said that he expects the team to give a far strong physical display.
“I expect the team to be much stronger from a physical point of view as in contrast with last month, this time the players have played a few matches,” Mangia said.
“Unfortunately, so far we had very little time to work with the players but I still expect the players to continue to show good attitude and play with the same mentality.
“I believe that playing entertaining football is crucial for our national team’s hopes of achieving success constantly. For me playing good football is the only way to obtain a good result. We can win again without playing well, but for me you are not building anything in your team if your players don’t develop their playing skills.”
Asked for the reason behind such a collapse, Mangia said that the playing philosophy he is trying to implement in the team will surely help the team to avoid a repeat of such disappointments.
Last month, Malta suffered a heart-breaking 3-2 defeat to Faroe Islands, in a match where the team was leading 2-1 with ten minutes to go before conceding two late goals.
“What happened last month in the Faroe Islands was mainly due to the poor physical condition of the team,” Mangia said.
“However, when you look at the philosophy of football, we are trying to implement in the team will surely help us to avoid such mishaps.
“My goal is to see the team finally starting to dictate play, and once you oversee proceedings it is easier for you to administer the match and bring the result home.”
On his part, Luke Gambin said that he is pleased to be part of the national team set up and said that the new coaching staff has brought with a very positive vibe.
“I am really pleased to be part of this group and each time I come to join the national team set up I always look really forward to it,” the Colchester midfielder said.
“Every time, I come and train with this coaching staff I’m always learning new things and honestly this has only created a very positive vibe.
“We have some excellent young players and I have no doubt that if we maintain this approach the future is looking bright for the Malta national team.”