Gżira United will be looking to reconfirm their improved form of late when they take on Birkirkara in the top fixture of this weekend’s BOV Premier League at the National Stadium tomorrow (kick-off: 5pm).
The Maroons head into the match in high spirits after they chalked up their first league win of the season at the expense of Valletta last week but are aware that a far tougher assignment tomorrow when they take on high-flying Birkirkara who, along with Hibernians and Floriana, are the only unbeaten sides in the division.
Gżira United coach Darren Abdilla told the Times of Malta that the match represented another serious test for his players to see whether they have finally turned the corner after a rather indifferent start to the season.
“This is another tough challenge for us as Birkirkara, along with Hibernians, are the most in-form teams in the division,” Abdilla said.
“We are aware of the huge potential that Birkirkara possess and they are guided by an excellent coach. They are blessed with a very deep bench and that is mirrored by the fact that last week they were without key players such as Diego Venancio and Enrico Pepe and they still managed to replace them comfortably.
“They are without doubt main challengers for the league title and for us it’s an opportunity to test our credentials against one of the best teams in the championship and it’s up to my players to show that they are capable of competing against them.”
Abdilla said that he was pleased to see his team finally rediscover their scoring form against Valletta and emphasised the importance for his team to be ruthless in front of goal against the Stripes.
“The match against Valletta was just a confirmation of the progress we have shown in the last few weeks,” Abdilla said.
“In previous matches, we created a lot of chances but we struggled to put the ball into the net. Against Valletta, we finally found our range and to be honest we could have had more goals with a bit more attention.
“I hope to see more ruthlessness in front of goal against Birkirkara and try to finish off the chances that we create. If we do that, I’m confident that we can remain on the winning trail.”
Birkirkara could not have hoped for a better start to the season after picking up ten points from the opening four matches of the season and coach Andre Paus said that it will be up to the players to keep this
positive momentum against Floriana.
“We had a very good start to the season,” the Dutch coach said.
“I think in the last couple of seasons, we had ten points after ten matches but this year, we collected ten points in four matches, so we have to be happy. All clubs in the championship are competitive but it’s up to us to make sure that we are ready for every match.
“We will always analyse our opponents but at the end of the day, what matters most is how we perform on the day. Our job is to bring the players in the best possible condition to compete against our opponents and for our players to follow our game plan and bring their best form on the pitch if we are to win matches.
“Gżira are surely a very strong side. They may not have had the best of starts but nobody can disregard the strength of their team as for me they are a side that have no weaknesses, so it will be a great challenge for my players to show that we can overcome this hurdle.”
Paus said that he is still not sure about the condition of Pepe and Venancio but is set to give them all the time to recover in time for the match.
The Dutch coach said that he was disappointed with the condition his national team players returned from the latest World Cup qualifiers this month and hopes the Malta FA will ensure they send players in a good
condition after next month’s matches.
“When we send players to the national team, we make sure they head for the international commitments fit and fresh,” Paus said.
“But unfortunately last month after the match against Russia, our national team players returned to the club without any form of recovery for the players as the MFA decided to bring back the contingent straight after the match.
“That left us with some national team players in far from a good physical condition, with Pepe carrying an injury while Cain Attard was also struggling. I spoke with Malta coach Devis Mangia and he agreed with me that things should have been dealt with better and hopefully the players will be back at the club ready to play their team’s domestic assignments.”