Gżira United and Floriana will be bidding to join Hibernians in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League when they face Atletic d’Escaldes, of Andorra, and Moldova’s Petrocub in the first qualifying round, second legs on Thursday evening.
Both Maltese clubs were forced to settle for frustrating draws in last week’s first legs, with Gżira held to a 1-1 draw against Atletic d’Escaldes while Floriana were left frustrated in a goalless draw against Petrocub.
Gżira United will be hopeful of making it second time lucky against teams from Andorra when they bid to clinch a win against Atletic.
However, Darren Abdilla’s men will certainly need to improve on their performance in the first leg if they are to progress.
In fact, last week the Maroons held possession for long stretches and looked heading for victory when Jefferson put them ahead on the stroke of half-time. However, when the Andorrans managed to level matters midway through the second half, Gżira struggled to produce a reaction and had to settle for a disappointing draw.
Today, it is likely that Gżira United will face a different Atletic side who will be keen to show more attacking intent and that could play in the Maroons’ hands as they will try to exploit the gap left by the home side threw the pace and power of their forwards Jefferson and Maxuell Maia.
On the other hand, Floriana were left to rue their failure to score from the numerous chances they created in a goalless draw against Petrocub.
Coach Gianluca Atzori made it clear after the match that the team needed to be more prolific in front of goal or they risk their place in the competition.
“We have dominated the match from start to finish but unfortunately we did everything right bar scoring goals,” Atzori told the Times of Malta after the match.
“I was really pleased with the performance of my players who were in control right from the outset and no doubt had we won the match 2-0 we would have not stolen anything.
“But in football, you don’t have just to play well but also score goals. It’s disappointing not to win but at the same time it will increase the determination of my players to go on and win the tie in Moldova next week.”
Still, the Greens should be wary of the threat posed by their Moldovan opponents who looked happy to sit back in the first leg at the Centenary Stadium.
But Petrocub are expected to go out for the win and Floriana will have to show good defensive organisation to fend off their opponents.