Defender Enrico Pepe has been ruled out of Malta’s World Cup qualifier against Russia in Moscow due to injury, the Malta Football Association announced in a statement.
The Italy-born defender limped out injured in the dying minutes of Saturday’s match against Slovenia in Ljubljana, forcing the Maltese team to finish the men with ten men.
“Following an injury suffered in yesterday’s match in Ljubljana Enrico Pepe will not travel with the squad to Moscow. He is returning to Malta to start recovery,” the Malta Football Association said in a statement.
“Thanks for your efforts in these last 2 matches Enrico and get well soon!”
The loss of Pepe is a blow for coach Mangia as the Birkirkara defender has been an outstanding performer for Malta in both the match against Slovenia, which the latter won 1-0, and in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Cyprus at the National Stadium.
Pepe’s unavailability is likely to see Mangia hand a recall to Gżira defender Steve Borg for the match against the Russians on Tuesday.