Malta plays the third game from Group F on Friday, kick-off at 19:00 CET, as it takes on Georgia at the Boris Paichadze National Stadium in Tbilisi.
In the first two outings, Malta suffered two defeats. After a rather disappointing performance in a 3-1 loss to Israel in Ramat Gan, John Buttigieg’s side showed some improvement despite losing 0-2 to Latvia at Ta’ Qali. Malta is therefore still seeking its first points in the group.
A game against Georgia does bring beautiful memories for the Malta coach considering that a 2-0 win in a friendly match against Georgia in a friendly match in August 2009 marked his debut as national coach. However a competitive game is always much more difficult.
Georgia, in fact, claimed two points from their first two outings in Group F after holding Greece in a 1-1 draw in Piraeus before a goalless draw with Israel in Tbilisi. Georgia coach Temuri Ketsbaia is keen to get the three points from Friday’s game, saying that “Anything other than a victory against Malta will be a catastrophe.”
Buttigieg is forced to make at least one change from the team which met Latvia as Manny Muscat is not part of the squad. He could be replaced by Edward Herrera. The other option is that Roderick Briffa is employed in defence with Kevin Sammut taking his role in midfield.
Another change should be the inclusion of in-form Ferencvaros midfielder Andre Schembri. He could replace Andrew Cohen in midfield or join Michael Mifsud in attack.
The starting line-up is therefore expected to be: Andrew Hogg, Edward Herrera (Kevin Sammut), Jonathan Caruana, Andrei Agius, Carlo Mamo, Jamie Pace, Gareth Sciberras (Ryan Fenech), Roderick Briffa, Andrew Cohen (Andre Schembri), Shaun Bajada, Michael Mifsud.
This will be the sixth clash between Malta and Georgia. The former Soviet Republic took part three times in the Malta International Tournament – winning 1-0 in 1994, 3-1 in 1998 and 2-0 in 2006. In a friendly match in Tbilisi in 1994, Malta and Georgia shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw. Last year’s 2-0 win for Malta was the first win for Malta over Georgia. Michael Mifsud scored both goals on that occasion.
Georgia vs Malta will be controlled by Alan Black from Northern Ireland, who will be assisted by assistant referees Gareth Eakin and Paul Munn and fourth official David Malcolm.
After this game, the next qualifier for Malta is against Croatia on November 17 in Zagreb.