Hibernians are going through a season to remember this year, making both the Knock-out and the shield finals as well as leading the standings after 12 games so far. Facing Caffe MOAK Luxol in today’s Shield final (tip-off: 13.30), Hibs will be looking to start collecting this year’s titles.
While the Paola side are experiencing a rich vein of form, Luxol side have struggled this year and currently occupy the last place of the standings. Speaking to the Times of Malta, Luxol coach Santino Coppa said that Hibs have dominated the league this year and will be the favourites in today’s final.
“We have gone through a very tough period, especially due to having been without our foreign player for more than two months,” Coppa said.
“Hibs are a great team and apart from their foreigners, they have good Maltese players, especially their young player (Ylenia Bonnett), and will be a force, even if Samantha (Brincat) will probably be out because of her injury.
“They have a squad which is deservedly at the top of the standings and they have an intelligent coach. They have dominated the league and they will certainly be the favourites for the game. We will do our best to beat them and after this tough season, it would be great if we win this.”
Luxol will be banking on Malta international Josephine Diaby, who joined over the summer. Coppa admits she was the player he wanted for the club.
“I have won many things with Luxol but this year, the squad has been reduced to its bare minimum. We saw the return of Mandy Sciortino and Sarah Pace, but they had been out for three or four years and so need time to get back to their best. The only new signing who has really made a difference has been Josephine (Diaby) and she was very happy to join our team,” Coppa said.
Speaking about new signing Palmira Marcal, the former Malta coach said that it is still too early to see her true potential.
“She (Marcal) joined the team four or five days ago. She is surely a good player but has spent 15 days in quarantine in Istanbul and another 15 days in Malta – that’s a month imprisoned,” he said, “Because of this, I can’t expect her to be at her best immediately.”
In terms of his squad’s objectives this season ahead of the playoffs, with the side still far off from securing a place, Coppa admits that he understands his players’ commitment and explained that the only thing he is expecting is that they “give the utmost” stressing that his players have the right attitude.
Hibs want to be champions
On the other end of the spectrum, Hibs coach Norbert Borg will not be taking today’s game lightly and believes it will still be a balanced encounter after being the only side to beat Luxol in the competition.
“It’s true that in the Shield, we were the only team to beat Luxol. However, this was in October, and from that day, we have faced Luxol in the league and Knock-out. In the meantime, we were hit with injury of two key players,” Borg said.
“Luxol also changed their foreigner and it will be the first time we are facing them with her in the squad. I’m sure that the game will be a balanced one since all teams are of the same strengths.”
Asked about the season so far, Borg emphasized that their ambition is to finish the season as champions.
“So far, it’s been a good season and we are competing in two finals,” Borg said.
“Our target is to finish in the first place before the playoffs start and hopefully, we will be crowned champions.”