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Valletta, Santa Lucia seeking solace in Cup showdown

Valletta’s David Promise (right) battles for the ball with Gianmarco Conti. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Valletta and Sta Lucia have a huge opportunity to book a place into arguably one of the biggest matches in Maltese football when they face each other in the opening semi-final of the Izibet FA Trophy this evening (kick-off: 19.30).

For both Valletta and Sta Lucia, this match holds a lot of significance, particularly after a low-key showing in the BOV Premier League which saw the Citizens miss out on a place in the top six while the Saints suffered a heart-breaking relegation on the final day of the season.

Thus one expects both teams to give everything they have to ensure they set up a final showdown with either champions Hibernians or Floriana on Sunday.

This is the second time in the space of four days that Valletta and Sta Lucia will face each other. In fact, last Friday Valletta edged Sta Lucia 2-1 courtesy of a stoppage time goal from Lucas Campos that condemned Sta Lucia to the Challenge League next season.

Valletta coach Danilo Doncic emphasised that for the capital club, today’s semi-final was the club’s biggest match of the season and admitted that they need to be at their best to march into the final.

“We have only faced Sta Lucia four days ago and from my experience in football it’s not easy for any team to face the same opponent twice in such a short span of time,” the Serbian coach told the Times of Malta.

“This time, our motivation is far bigger than last Friday as there is a place in the cup final at stake.

“During training I was very pleased with the players’ application and there is a lot of desire in the group and therefore I believe that we will show on the pitch that we are a better team than Sta Lucia and go on an book our place in the final.”

The Valletta coach will have a very important player missing from his squad today as Croatian midfielder Ivan Curjuric is out with a one-match ban.

Doncic said that qualification to European football was very important for the club’s future and said that he expects the players to give their maximum and stay on course to reach this goal.

“There is no hiding that we didn’t have a positive league season by our standards,” Doncic said.

“Now we have an opportunity to make up for a poor campaign by winning the FA Trophy and secure European football which is very important for our club.

“I hope that our fans will be again behind us as their support will surely make the difference to help us reach the final.”
For Sta Lucia, the past few days have been very difficult after the team suffered a final-day relegation to the Challenge League following a 2-1 defeat to Valletta.

Coach Giovanni Tedesco said that their relegation was a shattering blow for his players and the club in general and he faces a huge task to try and lift the players’ morale ahead of today’s semi-final.

“The club’s relegation to the Challenge League was a bitter pill to swallow for everyone at the club,” Tedesco said.

“In recent weeks the team have done everything they could to try and beat the drop, however, we dropped some crucial points in key matches and that cost us in the end. Still, I have no player to blame as they have followed me throughout and have given everything they had for this club.

“For us this semi-final is an opportunity to try and appease the heartache we are experiencing at the moment as reaching the final would be an historic achievement for our club.”

Tedesco admitted that during the past few days his biggest job was to try and motivate
his players after such a huge disappointment.

“My main job at the moment is to improve the players’ psychological condition,” Tedesco said.

“Disappointments are part of football but it’s how you react that makes all the difference. We need to react and show the necessary pride to try and turn around our fortunes.

“In such circumstances you need to have the courage to face such important matches. I have no doubt in my mind that we have quality to beat Valletta and reach the final but it’s important that the players believe it too.

“Playing a semi-final is not something that happens every year for our club and the players have an obligation to give everything they have.

“We have the chance to rewrite the club’s history by reaching the final and we owe it to the club, the president, who has done a lot of sacrifices, our fans and also to ourselves.”


TODAY – National Stadium
Sta Lucia vs Valletta 19.30
TOMORROW – National Stadium
Floriana vs Hibernians 19.30

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