Gżira United will be in familiar territory when they face Andorran side Sant Julia in the first qualifying round first leg of the UEFA Conference League in La Vella this evening (kick-off: 6pm).
For the Maroons, this will be their first appearance in the UEFA club competitions this season and will be in action in familiar surroundings as Darren Abdilla’s team have already face the Andorran side in the Europa League qualifiers a few years ago.
In fact, the Maroons were drawn against Sant Julia in 2018, and breezed into the second qualifying round after winning both 2-0 and 2-1 for a 4-1 aggregate win.
Still, coach Abdilla is taking nothing for granted and said that what happened two years ago holds little importance, given that the Andorran side traditionally make a lot of changes to their squad ahead of their European assignments.
“It’s true that we have only faced Sant Julia couple of seasons ago but teams from Andorra are quite unpredictable,” Abdilla said.
“From the information we gathered, they have changed six players from last season.
“Here, there is an open market on foreign players and being so close to Barcelona, they tend to sign veteran high-profile players to try and progress at least one round in Europe.
“We are expecting a very difficult match as Andorra teams tend to base their game on physical power so we need to be careful.
“However, having said that, I still believe that we are the better side and if we play at our strengths we can get the right result.”
Abdilla said that he was pleased with his team’s preparation in pre-season and hopefully his players can overcome the fact that they haven’t played a competitive match for the past four months.
“If you look at where we left, with football stopped due to COVID-19 in March, we had a good return to pre-season,” the Gżira coach said.
“The players worked really hard in pre-season and the fact that we didn’t change a lot of players helped us as they know each other well. We played three friendlies and our performances were very good so hopefully we can keep up the momentum.
“Sant Julia have a slight advantage over us with the fact that they continued their season and only finished their commitments in June when they won the Andorran Cup, so from a physical aspect they will be more prepared than us. But we need to make sure that we adapt to the circumstances.”