Malta national coach Devis Mangia is expecting a more open game when the national team takes on Latvia in a UEFA Nations League match in Riga this evening (kick-off: 6pm).
For the national team, the match against Latvia is the third in just less than a week and coach Mangia is hopeful his players can end their busy schedule with a bright display and more importantly a positive result to further rubberstamp their progress in recent weeks.
On Saturday, Malta were left to rue a missed opportunity to claim their first win in League D Group 1 when they could not go beyond a goalless draw against Andorra in La Vella.
Against Andorra, the Maltese found the going tough to breach the home side’s defence which was fielded in two blocks of four players with little space for the visiting forwards to manouvre.
However, the Malta coach is expecting Latvia to adopt a more attacking-minded approach as they look to bag three crucial points to keep the pressure on the Faroe Islands, the current group leaders.
“I’m expecting a much more open game against Latvia,” coach Mangia told a news conference.
“Latvia are currently fighting for top spot in the group with the Faroe Islands and I am expecting them to come out with all guns blazing, trying to get the win and all three points.
“That means that they will be keen to attack and that will inevitably open up more space for our forwards to do the damage to the Latvian defence.”
Malta and Latvia have already a good idea of what to expect as the two teams met just a month ago at the National Stadium with the game finishing in a 1-1 draw.
“We have good knowledge of what to expect from Latvia, particularly as we have only met them a few weeks ago,” Mangia said.
“I sat down with my technical staff in the last few weeks and we have analysed very well the Latvian team. I feel that the team has worked very well in the last few days and the players are ready to produce a strong performance in all departments.
“Obviously, there was disappointment after the match against Andorra. We had a high percentage of possession, but it was clear that we still some work to do to create scoring opportunities. But as I said this is long-term project and we are working hard to improve all aspects of our game.
“Enjoying long spells of possession is very important if we are to get positive results. I don’t think many would have thought that the national team was capable of playing two matches in a row and in both have a superior rate of possession.”
Also present for yesterday’s news conference was goalkeeper Henry Bonello who said that what impressed him most about the national team since Mangia took charge is the fact that the team is capable of playing the ball from the back.
“There is clear a major improvement in the national team’s play,” the Valletta goalkeeper said.
“We are starting to play the ball from the back as it happens in modern football. However, we still need to improve our attacking play and start creating more chances and score more goals.
“It will be important that the players start to believe more in themselves.
“Once that happens I’m sure the performances will continue to improve and we will attain more positive results.”