Following a most disappointing 6-0 defeat to the Czech Republic on Friday, Malta faces another uphill task as Pietro Ghedin’s side faces Austria at the Wörthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt on Tuesday, kick-off at 20:30.
Like the Czech Republic, Austria is one of the twenty-four finalists in next month’s EURO 2016. Austria will be facing Hungary, Portugal and Iceland. The Austrians will be therefore eager to impress, especially after suffering two 1-2 defeats to Switzerland and Turkey in their last three matches, defeating Albania with an identical score in the other match.
Ironically the last time Malta met Austria was on the eve of the EURO 2008 when Malta lost 5-1 in Graz. The other two clashes between Malta and Austria which were played on Austrian soil were also comfortable wins for Austria – 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Vienna in 1972 and a 9-0 win in another World Cup qualifier in Salzburg five years later. Malta hosted Austria six times, only managing a 1-1 draw in a friendly match in February 2007.
Against the Czech Republic, the Maltese were a disappointing lot and considerable improvement is necessary to avoid another heavy defeat. The absence of Andrew Hogg, Jonathan Caruana, Steve Borg, Joseph Zerafa and Andre Schembri is still no excuse. On Tuesday, Paul Fenech is also expected to skip the game after sustaining an injury in Friday’s game.
Ghedin is expected to make some changes from the team which lost to the Czech Republic, possibly with the inclusion of goalkeeper Justin Haber, Ryan Camilleri, Rowen Muscat and Michael Mifsud in the starting line-up. The latter three were included as substitutes on Friday.
The full squad at the disposal of Ghedin are:
goalkeepers Henry Bonello (Valletta) and Justin Haber (Hibs);
defenders Andrei Agius (Hibs), Cain Attard (Birkirkara), Ryan Camenzuli (Birkirkara), Ryan Camilleri (Valletta), Clayton Failla (Hibs), Clifford Gatt Baldacchino (Sliema), Zack Muscat (Akragas – ITA);
midfielders Roderick Briffa (Valletta), Llywelyn Cremona (Valletta), Paul Fenech (Balzan), Luke Gambin (Barnet – ENG), Bjorn Kristensen (Hibs), Rowen Muscat (Pavia – ITA), Steve Pisani (Floriana), Gareth Sciberras (Birkirkara);
forwards Alfred Effiong (Balzan), Jean Paul Farrugia (Sliema), Michael Mifsud (Valletta).
Meanwhile Austria coach Marcel Koller had named a 24-man squad for next month’s EURO 2016. Koller’s choices include only two players from Austrian clubs – Austria Vienna goalkeeper Robert Almer and Salzburg midfielder Valentino Lazaro – while Bayern Munich defender David Alaba is among 16 players based in Germany.
They play the Netherlands in another friendly match on Saturday before travelling to France.
The squad is made up of:
goalkeepers Robert Almer (FK Austria Wien), Heinz Lindner (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Ramazan Özcan (FC Ingolstadt 04/GER);
defenders Aleksandar Dragovic (Dynamo Kiev/UKR), Christian Fuchs (Leicester City FC/ENG), György Garics (SV Darmstadt 98/GER), Martin Hinteregger (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER), Florian Klein (VfB Stuttgart/GER), Sebastian Prödl (FC Watford/ENG), Markus Suttner (FC Ingolstadt 04/GER), Kevin Wimmer (Tottenham Hotspur FC/ENG);
midfielders David Alaba (FC Bayern München/GER), Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City FC/ENG), Julian Baumgartlinger (1. FSV Mainz 05/GER), Martin Harnik (VfB Stuttgart/GER), Stefan Ilsanker (RB Leipzig/GER), Jakob Jantscher (FC Luzern/SWI), Zlatko Junuzovic (SV Werder Bremen/GER), Valentino Lazaro (FC RB Salzburg), Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig/GER), Alessandro Schöpf (FC Schalke 04/GER);
forwards Lukas Hinterseer (FC Ingolstadt 04/GER), Rubin Okotie (TSV 1860 München/GER), Marc Janko (FC Basel 1893/SWI).