The preliminary round of the Louis Borg Cup takes place on Sunday as Gzira Athleta face an uphill battle against league leaders Starlites Naxxar (tip-off: 13.30), while Depiro BC look to recover the 11-point deficit suffered against BUPA Luxol (tip-off: 15.45)
Speaking to the Times of Malta, Athleta coach Peter Farrugia believes it will be a struggle and that even though “miracles do happen”, they are a rare sight.
“We are in a situation where because of the many injuries we’ve had, we have lost what we had planned for,” Farrugia said.
“We had injuries which were long-term and when these players recovered, we suffered more of them. In fact, we had a number of games without one of our keep players, Nathan Lee Xuereb, and others without a foreigner. Psychologically, the team has suffered, and we can’t really make plans for the rest the of season anymore.
“It was not the case of bad tactics but bad luck – all that could have gone wrong, did!”
This injury situation will see import player Shawn Montague out for the game on Sunday after having already played through what seems to be long-term injury.
“Shawn Montague is out and the probability is that he will be leaving next week because the injury is long-term and we know that the chances of making the playoffs are slim,” the Athleta coach admitted.
“This is a shame of course, as this is far from our plan at the start of the season. But our squad isn’t deep enough to say that we can afford to lose a player through injury, and we have had to play with our youths – even some of them have suffered injuries.
“You can try to boost your players but I’m sure it is set to be an uphill battle (against Starlites). Even the fact that we only have two foreign players registered – this means that not only don’t we have a substitute, but now we have also ended up with one. My problem now is that I can’t replace because the window opens in March and by then, the probability is that the team might already be out of the playoffs.”
‘Hungover from making the playoffs’
The second Sunday fixture pits Depiro against Luxol as the latter stunned the Mtarfa side on Thursday. Asked about the game on Thursday, coach James Bamfield believes his side had been ‘psychologically hungover’ after getting a confirmed spot in this year’s playoffs with a win over Gzira last weekend.
“I felt that we had a bit of a hangover from making the playoffs,” Bamfield said.
“We got away from our identity as a team. We will just try to get back to competing with great heart for 40 minutes the rest of the year and trying to improve as a group and individuals each day.”
Following the recent agreement with US forward Quinton Campbell, Bamfield had words of praise despite him not being available for selection yet before the March window.
“Quinton is a good character and I can tell he has been a pro in good leagues,” the Depiro coach explained.
“(Campbell) works diligently, takes care of his body, and is intelligent in his play. I feel as he works himself back into the game, he is improving his sharpness and is getting comfortable in what he can do well.”
FIRST LEG RESULTS
Starlites Naxxar vs Gzira Athleta 103 – 74
BUPA Luxol vs Depiro BC 77-66