Lija recover Beu
Just a few days after Malta stalwart Michael Mifsud ended his National team career with an all-important 42nd goal against Liechtenstein in his 143rd game for the side, BOV Premier League side Sirens whom he joined over the summer, will be looking to make amends for a tough start to their season in their match against fellow strugglers Lija Athletic on Sunday (kick-off 14.00).
With only two points in four games so far, the St. Paul’s Bay side saw hopes of replicating their previous season’s successes in doubt. Added to that was the issue of covid-19 which saw the squad put into mandatory quarantine after a number of positive cases were discovered.
As for Lija, who have also felt the pressure of covid-19 with significant absentees over the past weeks, things had started brightly but the side have dropped points in most of their games so far, even crashing to an enormous 8-1 defeat against Hibernians two weeks ago.
Speaking to the Sunday Times of Malta, Sirens coach Steve D’ Amato lamented about the tough job he has faced with bringing his players back into shape after such a halt in training and match practice.
“Our biggest problem, since returning from two weeks of quarantine, is the physical condition of the players,” D’ Amato said.
“This is an extraordinary thing which we have never experienced before – stopping for two weeks during the season – and obviously, it has been felt by the players.
“Although technically and tactically, the team is still performing well, physically the team has dipped so, my major concern is that the team has not yet reached the best condition one would expect after a good preseason.”
Despite these issues, D’ Amato is banking on the boost given to his side by Mifsud. The Sirens mentor stressed the forward’s importance to his team and the experience that he brings with him.
“Michael (Mifsud) is a very important player. I was very happy on Wednesday and congratulated him because on one of the most important days in his career, he managed to score as well and I think he deserves it,” D’ Amato explained.
“Mifsud is a super professional player who has given and is giving a lot to the team through his experience, how he speaks to the other players and the positivity he injects into the team. He is a player that one might call essential to the team with his character, so I have nothing but praise for Michael. He is an exemplary player whom the players look up to – an example of what a professional player should be.”
“He has been a boost for the club since day one and I’m sure he’ll not only help us in this game but also the rest of our fixtures.”
Asked about his plans for today’s match in terms of player selection, D’ Amato added to his concerns about their physical condition. However, he said he was still aiming to get “three points at all costs”.
“Obviously, because of physical condition, we’re going to be waiting until the last second to confirm things regarding certain players who might still not be 100%. But we want to get those three points,” he said.
“I think we were very close to getting (three points) against Tarxien despite having been without enough training and games. But we gave a very good performance and I hope that what we didn’t achieve last week, we’re able to get this week.”
On Lija’s part, the side has recovered six players, who had been found positive for covid-19, for Sunday’s match. Coach Joseph Galea told the Sunday Times of Malta that the team felt the loss of these players, especially with them being unavailable for clashes against Gzira United and Hibernians.
“We’ve spent these two weeks working hard and we’ve recovered six players who were not with us for the last three games where we were forced to play without six of our foreigners because of covid-19,” Galea remarked.
“This game is very important to us and we need to go out on the pitch and get some points out of the match.
“We’ll be playing against a team for whom last season was very positive. This season, they’ve started on what was not such a positive note even though they had tough games against Floriana and Sliema. But I believe it should be a balanced encounter.”
Asked about star player Erjon Beu, who had also been out injured for the past three weeks, Galea explained that his presence will be a boost to their game.
“Erjon (Beu) has not played for the past three games. He has recovered and I think he should be in the team for tomorrow’s game” Galea said on Saturday.
“Obviously, for us Erjon’s presence is needed because he is a vital part of the Lija team. But I have to admit that we’ve felt how tough it is losing any of our players. When you’ve got one player missing, it’s already tough- Imagine having five or six missing.”
Despite this issue, Galea still believes Lija can fight to achieve their target – staying in the upper echelons of Maltese football.
“Obviously if you want to stay up, you have to give your utmost to bring in the points with as much teams as possible. You need to strive to beat everyone,” he said.
“I believe there are a number of teams which we can get points against. It’s not easy because as a club our budget is limited but the club has made huge sacrifices to attract strong calibre players and we need to work hard to get the points and stay in the Premier League.”