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Spartans eye goals in bid to overturn Levski Sofia tie

Ħamrun Spartans need to score if they are to overturn their tie against Levski Sofia. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Ħamrun Spartans will go out in search of an early goal as they look to turn around their UEFA Conference League tie against Levski Sofia at the Vivacom Arena Georgi Asparuhov Stadium in Bulgaria (kick-off: 8pm).

The Spartans were left shattered after last week’s first leg at the National Stadium where they put up a lively display but their hopes of attaining a positive result were ended when Filip Krastev struck an injury-time winner that handed the Bulgarian side a crucial lead in their bid to reach the Play-Off round of the UEFA Conference League.

On Thursday, the Spartans have a huge task on their hands to overturn that one-goal deficit against the in-form Levski Sofia side who are expected to be backed by a sell-out crowd in Sofia.

Still, Ħamrun Spartans coach Branko Nisevic said the Spartans have no plans to throw in the towel and said that his players are determined to go out looking for a goal that would rekindle their hopes of qualification.

“We are facing an all-or-nothing scenario,” Nisevic told the Times of Malta.

“After the first leg we need to score a goal and during the past week we have been working hard to try and line up a strategy to reach our goal. We have more than one plan in place for whatever happens in this match but what is certain is that we are going for it.

“In my opinion, all the pressure is on Levksi Sofia who have always been the favourites in this tie given their pedigree. We know that they are a very good team as they showed in the first leg, and it’s not going to be easy for us.

“Added to that we know that we will be playing in front of a sold-out stadium in front of a passionate crowd. But we have already been in a similar situation in Sarajevo against Velez Mostar and we managed to silence their fans on the day. We hope that we can do the same on Thursday.”

Nisevic will be without a key member of his first-team squad for Thursday’s match as defender Steve Borg has pulled out of the match for family reasons.

The Serbian coach has yet to make a decision on who will replace the Malta defender, with Karl Micallef, Rodrigo Callegari and Vinicious all in contention to fill his void.

The Ħamrun Spartans coach said that looking back at the first leg, the team has managed to adapt well how to confront Levski Sofia and is hopeful they can get into their stride quickly into the match.

“In the first leg, we struggled to adapt to Levski’s game in the first 20 minutes when they played with very high intensity,” the Serbian conceded.

“But after they missed an early penalty we slowly got back into the match and managed to contain them very well, creating some excellent scoring chances.

“Unfortunately, we failed to score, and we got punished at the death. But the team has more confidence in how it can affront Levski Sofia and hopefully we have some ways and means how we can play against them that can yield us the result we are looking for.

“Qualification to the Play-off Round would be a historic achievement for our club and I can assure that the players will give everything they have to reach their objective.”

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