Malta will be aiming for a positive finale in the EURO 2012 Qualifying campaign as John Buttigieg’s side hosts Israel at the National Stadium on Tuesday, kick-off at 19:00.
The national team collected just one point in Group F after holding Georgia in a 1-1 draw last month. A positive result on Tuesday would provide the locals a positive ending.
Although Malta had never defeated Israel, the national team held Israel in a 2-2 draw in the final match from the EURO 2004 qualifiers which was played at the neutral venue of Antalya in Turkey. While playing at Ta’ Qali, Malta lost 1-2 in a friendly match in January 1989 and then 0-2 in the European Championship qualifiers in October 2002.
Following the 2-0 defeat to Latvia in Riga on Friday, Malta coach John Buttigieg is hoping the team will repeat the second half performance which saw the team going very close to equalising before eventually suffering the second goal.
After that game, he lost Hibernians duo Clayton Failla and Andrew Cohen who both picked a second yellow card and therefore received an automatic one-match ban. Buttigieg replaced them with Sliema Wanderers defender Alex Muscat and Floriana striker Christian Caruana but the Malta coach is hopeful Jonathan Caruana and Michael Mifsud, who both missed the trip to Riga as they were ruled out injured, will recover in time for the game.
Buttigieg is forced to make at least two changes from last Friday. Joseph Zerafa is expected to replace Clayton Failla on the left flank. On the other hand, should Jonathan Caruana be fully fit, he would join Andrei Agius as central defenders with Steve Borg starting on the right flank. Gareth Sciberras would move to midfield instead of Jamie Pace. In attack, Michael Mifsud would take his usual role with Andre Schembri playing behind him.
The twenty-man squad is made up of:
goalkeepers Andrew Hogg (Valletta), Justin Haber (Kerkyra – GRE);
defenders Andrei Agius (Latina – ITA), Roderick Briffa (Valletta), Steve Borg (Valletta), Jonathan Caruana (Valletta), Edward Herrera (Hibs), Carlo Mamo (Marsaxlokk), Alex Muscat (Sliema), Joseph Zerafa (Birkirkara);
midfielders Trevor Cilia (Birkirkara), Paul Fenech (Birkirkara), Ryan Fenech (Valletta), John Hutchinson (Chengdu Blades – CHI), Jamie Pace (Valletta), Gareth Sciberras (Birkirkara);
forwards Christian Caruana (Floriana), Michael Mifsud (Valletta), Andre Schembri (Panionios – GRE), Ivan Woods (Floriana).
Coach Luis Fernandez could not count on Eran Zahavi, Omri Ben Harush and Portsmouth’s Tal Ben Haim who are suspended while Yossi Benayoun was not included.
The players at the disposal of the Israel coach are:
goalkeepers Dudu Aouate (RCD Mallorca), Ariel Harosh (Beitar Jerusalem FC), Guy Haimov (Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC);
defenders Dani Bondarv (FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod), Dor Malul (K. Beerschot AC), Rami Gershon (KV Kortrijk), Taleb Tawatha (Maccabi Haifa FC), Itzik Cohen (Maccabi Haifa FC);
midfielders Bebras Natcho (FC Rubin Kazan), Lior Rafaelov (Club Brugge KV), Maor Buzaglo (R. Standard de Liège), Gil Vermouth (1. FC Kaiserslautern), Beram Kayal (Celtic FC), Almog Cohen (1. FC Nürnberg), Nir Biton (FC Ashdod), Eyal Golasa (Maccabi Haifa FC);
forwards Tomer Hemed (RCD Mallorca), Elyaniv Barda (KRC Genk), Dudu Biton (Wis?a Kraków), Omer Damari (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC), Tal Ben Haim (Maccabi Petach-Tikva FC).
Before the game, four local players who played hundred matches or more for the national team, namely Gilbert Agius, David Carabott, Carmel Busuttil and Joe Brincat will be presented with a commemorative cap and medal after the UEFA Executive Committee decided to honour all European national team players who have reached the 100-cap mark with a special award.
Tickets cost €15 for the West Stand, €6 for the Millennium Stand and €3 for the South Stand. Tickets for children cost €1 for all stands.
Meanwhile Arriva will once again be operating a scheduled bus service to and from the National Stadium.
The bus leaves Valletta Terminus (next to Bus Bay No. 15) to the National Stadium at 16:45 and 17:30.
The bus then leaves from the National Stadium (infront of the MFCC Entrance Gates) to Valletta at 21:00 21:15.
The windscreen tags on these buses will indicate ‘National Stadium Direct Service’
Football fans who choose to make use of this service also have the option of making use of the Park & Ride Facilities in Blata l-Bajda.