Gilbert Agius believes Sunday’s derby against rivals Floriana represents a perfect opportunity for Valletta FC to put behind them their recent poor run of form with victory at the National Stadium (kick-off: 2pm).
This week, Agius was named as Valletta’s interim coach following the sudden departure of coach Jesmond Zerafa who stood down from his post following last Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Tarxien Rainbows at the Centenary Stadium.
The setback against the Rainbows stretched Valletta’s winless to three matches and left the team in seventh place on 13 points, level with the same Floriana who too are passing from a difficult spell after picking up just one point from their last two matches.
For Agius this is not the first time that he was called to take charge of the first team.
In fact, in season 2018-19 the former City forward was put in charge of the team for the final five matches of the season following the departure of Danilo Doncic. That stint turned out to be a highly successful as he managed to lead the team to the league title after defeating Hibernians in a championship decider.
Agius admitted that this was a delicate time for the team and was hopeful that a match-up against the club’s biggest rivals presented a perfect opportunity for the players to turn the corner and put their campaign back on track.
“It’s no secret that this is a delicate time at our club,” Agius said.
“Following the resignation of a coach, things cannot be how the club would have liked. The Valletta FC committee have handed me the reins of the team until Sunday’s match against Floriana and then they will choose who will take charge of the team.
“A match against Floriana is a game that can help us restore some confidence in the group.
“Obviously, we are facing the Malta champions, and it’s important that we give the match the respect it deserves.
“For a Valletta FC player, a match against Floriana is always a great source of motivation to take the pitch focused and determined to get the right result. This season, all teams are more or less of the same level, nobody is superior to each other.
“At the moment, both Valletta and Floriana are in a similar position, so we need to be cautious as they too will be charged up to get a result.”
Agius is boosted by the return from suspension of defensive duo Eslit Sala and Mihailo Jovanovic who missed the Tarxien match as they served a one-match ban.
The Valletta interim coach admitted that there has been a lot of positives to take from previous matches despite the negative results and admitted the team’s inability to take the chances that came their way ultimately cost the team dearly.
“If you look at our performances, the team has dominated their opponents in various matches, with a high percentage of possession and creating numerous scoring chances.
“However, our lack of cutting edge in front of goal has been our achilles. We are creating a lot but when you don’t put the ball into the net you are risking of getting punished and drop precious points.
“Added to that some players have felt the physical strains of playing three matches in the space of a week and that didn’t help. But now it’s time for everyone to show their character and hopefully, we can put this difficult period behind us.”
While this has been a difficult week for Valletta, Floriana, on the other hand had little to smile about after Sunday’s defeat to Mosta.
The Greens too are struggling for consistency, but coach Enzo Potenza said that he is still pleased with the effort being put in by his team, particularly due to the fact that they are currently without a number key players.
“It’s true that we only managed a point from the last two matches against Balzan and Mosta, however, our performances surely deserved much better. We created a lot of scoring opportunities but unfortunately, we failed to get the result we wanted,” Potenza said.
“Now, it’s useless crying on spilt milk, we need to analyse what we did wrong and look forward to what promises to be a very important match for our club and supporters.
“We are struggling for numbers at the moment as we have several players who are out injured or are not in their best physical condition. But I only have words of praise for my players who despite the difficult circumstances they are giving everything they have.”
Potenza said that he is not surprised that Valletta had put the team under the charge of Gilbert Agius who has already showed that he has the qualities to lead team in difficult circumstances after leading them to title glory in 2018-19.
“Gilbert Agius is real great professional who has written the history of Valletta FC both as a player and as a coach so it’s not surprised that he has been given the reins of the team in such a difficult time,” Potenza said.
“He has already shown great pedigree when he took up the team with a few matches left in 2018-19 and led them to the title so he deserves this opportunity.
“He is a Valletta man through and through and he knows well the dynamics of the club so I’m sure he will do a good job.
“I just hope that my players will be up to the job to give Valletta a good run for their money and hopefully get the result we all hope for.”
Lija Ath. vs Ħamrun S. 17.00
Gudja vs Balzan 21.15
Sta Lucia vs Hibernians 14.00
Sirens vs Gżira 18.15
Mosta vs Tarxien R. 14.00
Żejtun C. vs Sliema W. 18.15
Valletta vs Floriana 14.00
Senglea A. vs Birkirkara 18.15