Malta coach Devis Mangia is sure his players have learnt from their mistakes in La Vella as the national team will face Andorra in a decisive UEFA Nations League clash at the National Stadium this afternoon (kick-off: 3pm).
For the national team, this will be their second meeting with the Andorrans after last month they could not go beyond a goalless draw in La Vella despite enjoying over 70 per cent of possession even though they struggled to create clear-cut chances.
However, since then, the national team has stepped up a gear and a 1-0 win in Latvia has catapulted the team to second place in League D Group 1 on five points, five adrift of leaders Faroe Islands and still with an outside chance of topping the group.
The national team warmed up for today’s match with a dominant display against Liechtenstein which saw an experimental side romp home to a comfortable 3-0 victory.
Mangia told reporters that the team arrived for this match in fine fettle, adding that they have analysed the performance they had in Andorra and know where they have to improve to get the result needed today.
“This is a very important match for us, and we need to play better than we did in Andorra last month,” Mangia said.
“Our approach will be the same – to try and play our football. In La Vella, we committed some technical mistakes, particularly when it came to keeping the ball in the final third of the pitch and we need to improve on that.
“The team must push Andorra into their own half and keep control of the match. It will be imperative that the players are focused right from the outset and try and play with much more pace if we are to unlock their solid defence.”
Yesterday morning, Mangia brought on two new players to the squad as wingback Dexter Xuereb and striker Luke Montebello were called up.
The Malta coach said that Montebello, who boasts having a physical presence, is set to be included in the starting formation. Defender Steve Borg must serve a one-match ban and is set to be replaced by Sliema defender Kurt Shaw, who came on as a substitute against Liechtenstein.
The match between Malta and Andorra will again be played behind closed doors at the National Stadium, as health authorities continue to be against the return of fans into football venues.
Mangia admitted that it is a pity that the team must play without their supporters but said they had to follow the guidelines of the health authorities.
“I want to make it clear that the health of the people is the biggest priority in these difficult times and we need to follow the guidelines of the authorities,” the former Italy U-21 coach said.
“But at as man of sport, without the presence of the supporters in football is not the same. There is something missing.
“At the end of the day, we have to be happy that we are able to play and the most important thing is that we play for our supporters and get the best result for them.”
Joseph Mbong, who was at Mangia’s side, said that they know what to expect from Andorra this afternoon and the team must stay patient if they are to get the result they are looking for.
“When we played in Andorra, we did have a lot of possession, but unfortunately we failed to keep hold of the ball in the final third while there were some instances when we went for goal too quickly,” the Ħamrun midfielder said.
“It will be imperative that we are concentrated on the task ahead, right from the outset and more importantly, be patient as we know that Andorra will make life difficult for us but we will be ready.