Ħamrun Spartans are bracing themselves for another tough test in the UEFA Conference League when they face Velez Mostar, of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the second qualifying round, first leg tie on Thursday (kick-off: 8.30pm).
The Spartans head into this match high in confidence after last week’s extraordinary 4-1 win over Armenian side Alashkert at the Centenary Stadium.
However, the 2021 Malta champions are aware that they face a much tougher test in the form of Velez Mostar, winners of the Bosnia Cup last season and coach Branko Nisevic is urging his players to approach the match with added caution.
“We are expecting a far tougher tie than against Alashkert,” Nisevic told the Times of Malta.
“Personally, I think that Velez Mostar are a bit better than Alashkert. I watched them play in their opening league match last week and they have some quality players in their squad.
“It’s important that we approach the match with the right frame of mind. Tactical discipline will be key to ensure we get the result we want. The main goal is to try and keep the tie open for next week’s second leg in Malta where we believe that with support of our fans we would have a good chance to turn the tie in our favour.”
Velez Mostar opened their league campaign last weekend when they needed a Djorde Pantelic goal midway through the second half to ensure a 1-1 draw against Posusje.
Nisevic said that it will be key for his team to try and enjoy a high percentage of possession to try and control the game’s proceedings.
“Our plan will be very simple,” the former Malta assistant coach said.
“We will need to show good defensive organisation and more important try and make good use of the ball. It will be important that we try and enjoy a good percentage of possession as that way we can keep better control of how the match develops.
“We have the pace to hurt them with quick transitions and we need to make the most that the chances come our way. I’m expecting a difficult match but I have no doubt that the players can continue where they left off last week.”
Nisevic admitted that the 4-1 win over Alashkert, which matured with a strong second-half performance that saw the team score four goals in the space of 20 minutes, was a huge injection of confidence for the players.
“Winning matches is always very healthy for any team,” Nisevic said.
“Having made so many changes to the squad, it’s logical that some doubts will come up on how competitive the team is. But the performance against Alashkert surely gave us more belief in ourselves.
“But still, these are still early days and there is still a lot of work to be done. We need to remain humble and continue to work hard.”
The Ħamrun Spartans coach is boosted by the availability of forward Moussa Sowe but midfielder Christian Cassar is still out with a knee injury.
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