Valletta coach Jose Antonio Cardoso Mendes has told his players to put behind them their derby debacle against Floriana as the Citizens look to relaunch their league campaign when they face Gżira United at the NationalStadium on Saturday evening (kick-off: 7pm).
The Portuguese coach and his players came under fire from the club’s fans after their poor showing against Floriana which saw the team struggle to leave their mark against their neighbouring rivals who ran riot and clinch an impressive 3-0 win.
Toze Mendes, as the Portuguese coach is known, has now issued a rallying cry to his players to focus solely on their match against Gżira United where they have their opportunity to show their real potential.
“The derby was surely was a disappointing result for everyone at the club, particularly our supporters,” Mendes told the Times of Malta.
“But like when we beat Ħamrun Spartans and Balzan FC we were not the best team in the world, after losing to Floriana we surely didn’t become the worst team in the world. We have analysed the game and saw what we did wrong and tried to fix them ahead of our match against Gżira United.
“When I came here at Valletta FC, I knew that there will always be a lot of expectation. I have a different view of pressure. I would be under real pressure if I’m struggling to provide food to my daughter.
“In football, everyone wants to win, pressure is always there and inevitably when you lose an important match, it increases. But we always have to be ready to contend with all the pressures of this job.”
Mendes will have to make at least one change from the team that faced Floriana as defender Christian Gauci will be serving a one-match ban.
The Portuguese coach said that he is aware of the threat posed by Gżira United and has warned his players that they cannot repeat the mistakes committed against Floriana or they will be severely punished.
“Every game will be a big challenge and Gżira United are a very strong side who are led by a very good coach and had some excellent seasons,” Mendes said.
“They too are not passing from a very good patch as they are still looking for their first win so no doubt that makes them more dangerous.
“Against Floriana, we started well in the first minutes but then we lost our defensive balance and inevitably that put us on the backfoot to try and we struggled to contain their swift counter attacks. It’s important that we show more balance or we risk to suffer be severely punished against Gżira United.”
The season might still be at an early stage, but for Gżira United the match against Valletta has already taken an important proportion, given that the Maroons have yet to pick up their first win of the season after two draws and one defeat.
Gżira coach Darren Abdilla admitted that his side could have done much better so early in the season but said that now is the time for his team to show their real mettle and a win against Valletta could be a game-changer for his team.
“It was surely not the start of the season that we were hoping for,” Abdilla said.
“Our poor form is down to many factors but I think it’s time to stop making excuses and try and put our game in order. We had a lot of faith in the team we had last season and in fact we only made on significant addition with the arrival of Thiago Espindola.
“The loss of Ricardo Correa certainly hurt us a lot as he was a very important player and we had to change the way we played to make up for his loss.
“All in all, we are creating a lot of chances, but we are not putting the ball into the back of the net.
“However, the greatest cause of concern for me is that we are suffering too many goals. We have yet to record a clean sheet as we are conceding too many soft goals. But I’m confident that it’s only a matter of time that the team will click into gear.”
PLAYING ON SATURDAY
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Sta Lucia FC vs Sirens 17.00
Hibernians vs Mosta 21.00
Valletta vs Gżira Utd 19.00
PLAYING ON SUNDAY
Birkirkara vs Floriana 17.00
Ħamrun S. vs Balzan 21.00
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Sliema W. vs Gudja Utd 19.00