Gżira United could be only 90 minutes away from rewriting the club history books as the Maroons host Austrian Bundesliga side Wolfsberger in the second leg of their UEFA Conference League tie at the Centenary Stadium on Tuesday evening (kick-off: 6pm).
When the draws of the third qualifying round were made, few had given Gżira United a chance of becoming the first Maltese side to reach a Play Off round in a UEFA club competition.
However, Darren Abdilla’s boys continued where they had left off after their stunning win at Serbian giants Radnicki Nis with another resilient performance in Austria last week which has seen the team secure an important goalless draw.
That inevitably left the tie wide open and with the Maroons having home advantage this evening, the Maltese Premier League side are surely daring to dream of securing their biggest win in European football and set up a Play-off Round tie against Norwegian side FC Molde and FC Kisvarda, of Hungary.
“After the first leg, it’s clear that we are optimistic that we can get the qualification that we are chasing,” Gżira United coach Darren Abdilla told the Times of Malta.
“But it is very important to realise that it will not be easy. Every match has its own story and the match here in Malta could be completely different to what happened in Austria. We need to work hard throughout the whole match and more importantly show great diligence in how we play.
“It’s going to be very important that we take full advantage of the factor of where the match is being played – the Centenary Stadium – and use its characteristics in our favour.
“Wolfsberger still remains a very strong team and if you look at the first leg if there was a team that deserved to win on the day was them. Wolfsberger are team that has a lot of qualities so it’s up to us not to take anything foregranted and try our best to take the chances that come our way.”
Irrespective of whatever happens this evening, Abdilla said that Gżira United should still be proud of their achievements in Europe this season and has singled out the players attitude as the key factor behind their excellent run in the UEFA Conference League.
“The only reason we arrived so far in Europe this season is thanks to the attitude of the players,” Abdilla said.
“The players showed great tactical discipline and everything they did very well everything they were asked to do by the coaching staff.
“If we fail to advance it will be a disappointment for us but we cannot fault the players. They gave everything they had and showed a positive mindset.
“The biggest difference was the fact that they believed more in themselves and that helped them to achieve unexpected results against more-quoted opponents.”
Wolfsberger head into tonight’s match on the back of a very poor run of form.
In fact, the Austrian side are still in search of their first win in the Austrian Bundesliga and last weekend they suffered a humiliating 5-1 defeat to league leaders LASK.
Abdilla said that Wolfsberger’s poor run of results could turn out to be dangerous for his team as the Austrians will surely be heading to Malta with the intent of proving a point and qualification in the Conference League could turn their season around.
“It’s true that Wolfsberger are passing through a difficult patch at the moment with just two draws and a defeat to show from their championship outings so far,” Abdilla said.
“But those results could fuel more desire from Wolfsberger to use this match to make a statement and produce a reaction. No doubt, their confidence will be hit by these negative results, but as I said they will be determined to prove a point.
“I saw their match at the weekend and at half-time they were already trailing 4-0 and the coach made four substitutions which showed that he was already thinking for their match against us here.
“It’s clear that for them this European tie is fundamental and they will be fully motivated to win the match and secure qualification so we have to be ready.”
Gżira United head into today’s match with two key players who are rated as doubtful as Maxuell Samurai is facing a race against time to recover from a knock suffered in training while Riccardo Correa also required medical attention this week.