Birkirkara face their first real test in this season’s BOV Premier League when they take on Floriana in the weekend’s main match at the National Stadium on Saturday (kick-off: 6.30pm).
The Stripes have enjoyed a good start to their campaign after managing to win their opening two matches against Sirens and Żebbuġ Rangers to share top spot with Balzan.
However, their clash against last season’s FA Trophy winners Floriana will be the ideal gauge for coach Giovanni Tedesco to see how competitive his team can be this season.
“For us the match against Floriana is a great opportunity to see the level of our team this season,” Tedesco told the Times of Malta.
“With all due respect to Sirens and Żebbuġ Rangers, Floriana are without doubt a team of a higher level and will offer our players are far tougher test than our opening two games.
“So far, I have not been totally pleased with our performances, as while the team did very well in our opening match against Sirens, we didn’t approach our match against Żebbuġ Rangers with the right mentality.
“Our mindset was not the right one and we struggled a lot in the first 30 minutes of the match. Ok, the players did well to turn it around, but we certainly cannot afford such performances against teams like Floriana who will surely punish us.
“Floriana have already shown their force last season, and this year they have continued to build on what they had and besides they are guided by Gianluca Atzori who is not only a dear friend of mine, with whom I shared a lot of football experiences, but he is also a great coach.
“What I want to see from my team is that they finally put up an identity to their game. Ok, we are still at the start of the season, but I want my players to always take the pitch with the mindset of fighting for every ball throughout the whole 90 minutes. So that is why the match against Floriana will be a great test for us as we can show our real value.”
On his part, Gianluca Atzori, the Floriana coach, is also not totally satisfied with his team’s performances so far which has seen them beat Pietà Hotspurs 2-0 before coming from behind to grind out a 2-2 draw against Sirens.
“We are still finding our feet and that was clearly shown in our first two games where I was not pleased with the team’s display in the second half against Pieta and the first half against Sirens,” Atzori said.
“When you underestimate your opponents you risk finding yourself in a hole which is not easy to come out of and that what happened to us against Sirens, who in all honesty, would have deserved to win the match.
“I really hope that this match against Birkirkara will be a good opportunity for my players to finally turn the page and start playing the way we have always done.
“Birkirkara are one of the best teams in Malta and it’s not difficult for my players to be motivated to go out to show their best form. They have changed their coach and have brought in several players who are showing a good level of play so, no doubt, they will provide a great challenge for us.
“So I am looking forward to this match which could kickstart our title challenge.”
The Floriana coach has suffered a blow in the build-up to this match as key midfielder Ulisses Arias broke his arm in training and is facing at least four weeks out.