Valletta will be all out to claim victory on Thursday as they take on Newtown AFC in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round at the Hibernians Stadium, kick-off at 20:45.
In the first leg, the Citizens went one goal down just before the end of the first half but substitute Jhonnattan Benites da Conceicao levelled matters mid-way through the second half. However after Ian Azzopardi was sent off in the dying minutes, they conceded another goal in added time.
At this point, Valletta have to either beat Newtown 1-0 or else register a win by a two-goal difference to set up a second qualifying round clash with FC København of Denmark. A 2-1 win for Valletta would force extra-time.
In the first leg, new Valletta coach Paul Zammit could not count on the suspended Jonathan Caruana and Roderick Briffa, the injured Njongo Priso while Shaun Bajada was not in the squad as he was on honeymoon. Jonathan Caruana and Roderick Briffa will be back for the second leg.
Valletta coach Paul Zammit said the build up for the first leg was not ideal. There were several new players in the squad; the visa problems faced by four of the players which only enabled them to join the rest of the squad on the eve of the game and the fact that Caruana, Briffa, Bajada, Priso and Steve Borg – who until then was still a Valletta player – were all unavailable.
Zammit is however confident that the second leg will be a completely different game.
“There is a wrong perception on Welsh teams. One cannot underestimate the. It would be a big mistake,” said the Valletta coach.
Paul Zammit went on to say that on Thursday, Valletta will be chasing the result they need to make it to the next round. He said that after the first leg, they know their opponents better.
“Caruana and Briffa are two important elements in our team. They are our captain and vice-captain and their return fills us with more confidence.”
“In the first leg, in the first twenty-five minutes, we were very shaky. This was also due to their way of play. Once we started to play our game, we held the upper hand, but then lost a player for a second yellow card and conceded a goal.”
“It was a fair result. We had good patches and were unlucky for the end but it was still a fair result,” added Zammit.
“We cannot adjust ourselves to their style of play. We need to play our game. If we manage, this clash will go our way,” concluded Zammit.
Valletta FC president Victor Sciriha said the game against Newtown AFC was a very important game for the club. While thanking the players for their display in the first leg, despite the various constraints, Sciriha is confident Thursday’s game will be a different story especially with the return of Jonathan Caruana and Roderick Briffa, who in his opinion, could make the whole difference.
Sciriha said Newtown played a physical game but Valletta were technically a better side. He appealed for support as this would boost the chances of the team reaching its objective.
Valletta coach Paul Zammit said that he was finding huge backing by the club’s administration and president Victor Sciriha. He said that they have been working hard for the past four week and although now they are fully focussed on Thursday’s game, the club will then continue working to have a competitive squad.
Valletta captain Jonathan Caruana added that due to the fact that there are several new players, it takes time for them to get to know each other better and gel together. However, as regards Thursday’s game, he added that the players are confident that they can do it.
The Citizens are seeking their sixth qualification to a second round of a UEFA competition.
In 1999, they eliminated Barry Town of Wales with a 3-2 aggregate score in the UEFA Champions League; in 2009 Keflavik of Iceland with a 5-2 aggregate in the UEFA Europa League; in 2011, Tre Fiori of San Marino with a 5-1 aggregate and in 2012 Lusitanos of Andorra with a 9-0 aggregate in the UEFA Champions League and in 2013, La Fiorita of San Marino 4-0 in the UEFA Europa League.
Newtown AFC, on the other hand, are chasing their first ever qualification, having taken part just twice in the UEFA Cup – in 1996, losing with a 1-7 aggregate score to Skonto Riga and two years later with a 0-7 aggregate to Wisla Krakow of Poland.