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Coach Doncic issues rallying cry as Valletta face leaders Hibernians

Valletta midfielder Triston Caruana in an aerial duel with Thaylor, of Hibernians. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

New Valletta coach Danilo Doncic is urging his players to show their real character as the Citizens’ hopes of making the Championship Pool faces a stern test when they take on Premier League leaders Hibernians at the National Stadium this afternoon (kick-off: 16.00).

Valletta have been struggling to reach the Championship Pool this season as they currently lie seventh in the standings on 21 points, three adrift of sixth-placed Gżira United.

But the most worrying aspect for the capital club is the fact that they have not won a league match since November 27 when they had the better of Mosta 3-1 and new coach Danilo Doncic is desperate to mastermind a change in fortunes for his team if they are to make the top six.

“We are definitely in a very difficult position,” Doncic told the Times of Malta.

“If you look at our positions in the standings and our failure to win points in recent weeks show that we definitely need to perform much better if we are to qualify for the Championship Pool.

“I have only been here for little more than a week and we had very little time to work on the training pitch as we had to play two matches in the space of a few days. Certainly, I need more time to implement my philosophy and make my team play as I want them.

“Still, against Sirens there were some good moments and I thought we played with the right intensity and created some good chances. Unfortunately, all the good work was thrown away by some individual mistakes and bad positioning when defending and that costs us dearly.

“But now we need to look forward, we are aware of the

difficult task awaiting us when facing Hibernians who are the best team in the division at the moment.

“However, I have great faith in my players and I hope they show their real character to try and

get a positive result which could be massive at this point of the season.”

Doncic will be without two key defenders as Ryan Camilleri and Eslit Sala must both serve a one-match ban.

While Valletta may be struggling for form, Hibernians on the other hand have been a tower of consistency this season as the Paolites are flying high in the Premier League standings and remain as the only unbeaten team in the top-flight this season.

Hibernians suffered a bit of a blip in January when they could only manage three successive draws but the team seems to have regained their poise after they beat Sliema Wanderers last week

and also advanced in the FA Trophy with a 1-0 win over Nadur Youngsters.

Coach Stefano Sanderra said that his team’s dip in form in recent weeks due to a number of situations that evolved, particularly the injury to influential midfielder Bjorn Kristensen.

“It’s true our performances last month were not what we expected but there were a number of situations that we found ourselves in, particularly losing key players like Bjorn Kristensen to injury,” Sanderra said.

“However, we needed time to regroup and bring in new players in the team. We are still far from reaching our potential as we have several new players who still have to settle down in the club but

we are surely heading in the right direction.

“Our position in the standings is very positive but we have still not achieved anything. This weekend we have a very tough match against a Valletta team who are struggling for results.

“People might consider us as favourites, but I consider Valletta very dangerous opponents, who boast some quality players,

particularly in midfield and in attack so we need to be really cautious. We are facing a hurt animal and it’s in these circumstances that they are the more dangerous.”

Sanderra will be without Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone who arrives back in Malta today after representing his country at the Africa Cup of Nations while Erjon Beu is doubtful with a knee injury.

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