After Malta’s commitments in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, which included the historic 3-0 victory over Cyprus, the domestic league will resume this weekend with the derby between rivals Valletta and Floriana set to take centre stage this evening at the National Stadium (kick-off: 7pm).
The last time these two rivals crossed swords was on December 6 of last year, when Floriana eased past Valletta 3-0.
On that day, the derby was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This scenario won’t be repeated this time around as a restricted number of supporters can enter the local stadia following the latest guidelines provided by the health authorities.
Both set of fans are relishing the opportunity to play this derby in front of their fan base who often colour this fixture with their organised choreographies, making a spectacle for the Maltese game.
Valletta coach Jose Mendes will hope that this derby manages to produce from a neutral point of view.
“Before signing with Valletta, I did my own research about the club and one thing that fascinated me was the huge fanbase that this team boasts,” Mendes told the Times of Malta.
“For me and for the players, it is exciting to play in front of our supporters and we need them because they support us and push us, which helps us get the best out of the team.
“From this point of view, I hope that it will be a very nice derby because I am sure that the Floriana supporters will attend in huge numbers for this game and hopefully it will be an excellent showcase for Maltese football.”
Floriana player Ryan Camenzuli echoed the Valletta coach’s thoughts as he pointed out that everyone knows about the importance of the game.
“It is a very important game for everyone,” Camenzuli explained.
“We know what it means for our supporters and together with our coach and the technical staff, the team has been working hard to arrive for this game in the best possible way.”
This will be the first-ever derby for the Valletta coach in charge of the Citizens and he has urged his players to remain calm and control their emotions get the points from this game.
“It is very important for the players to concentrate on their game and remain calm if we want to have the better of Floriana,” the Portuguese coach said.
Mendes heaped praise on his players for their build-up towards their game despite having a lot of absent players due to the international break.
“All the team has been working well and I am happy because the players are understanding better my ideas and game model,” he said.
“The first two games were tough as it will be the remaining of the league as I believe this will be a very tricky campaign for everyone because the games are being played at a high level.
“During the international break, we continued to work on our principles of the game, played a couple of friendlies and we feel prepared heading into this game.”
Floriana coach Gianluca Atzori will have new signings Andrei Ciolacu of Romania and Moldovian Eugeniu Rebenja missing for this game as they are currently observing a mandatory COVID-19 quarantine.
Nonetheless, Camenzuli said that they are eager to collect their first three points of the season in what it is the biggest test of the season so far.
“This is the biggest test for us from which we can gauge how competitive we are,” the Malta international said
“We are hellbent to pick up our first win of the season and a win against Valletta would be the perfect occasion for us and for our fans as this is more than just a simple league match for us.
“Looking at Valletta, they have brought in some experienced players like we did, and they look like a very compact squad and I am not surprised that it allowed them to win two important games in the early part of the season so it’s going to be great game for us.”
Camenzuli was subject of a lot of speculation on his future as he enters his final year of his contract. However, the talented wingback said that his only focus at the moment is to do well for Floriana FC.
“From a personal point of view, until I am a Floriana player I will give my all and continue to fight my place in what it is a very competitive squad here,” Camenzuli said.
“There has been a lot of talk on where my future lies but I can assure you that my focus is to help Floriana achieve their objectives for this season.”
PLAYING ON SATURDAY
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Mosta vs Ħamrun S. 17.00
Gżira vs Sliema W. 21.00
Floriana vs Valletta 19.00
PLAYING ON SUNDAY
Sirens vs Hibernians 17.00
Gudja vs Sta Lucia 21.00
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Balzan vs Birkirkara 19.00