Malta faces Scotland in another difficult test

Following a 0-4 defeat to England on Friday, the Malta national team will be in action once again on Monday as they entertain Scotland at Hampden Park on Monday, kick-off at 20:45.

The heavy defeat to England was a major disappointment, considering that five minutes from time, England enjoyed a narrow lead but the locals collapsed in the final stages, conceding three goals in four minutes of normal time and three minutes of added time. To a certain extent, the disappointment was similar to that after the game against Scotland this time last year when Malta was sharing the exchanges with Scotland but a controversial penalty and dismissal paved the way for a 5-1 for the Scots at Ta’ Qali.

On Monday, the Maltese need to be at their very best against a Scotland side which could move to just one point behind second-placed Slovakia in the race for the runner-up spot in the group. After beating Malta, they were held in a 1-1 draw by Lithuania and then suffered two 3-0 defeats away from home to Slovakia an England but then defeated Slovenia 1-0, drew 2-2 with England and defeated Lithuania away from home last Friday.

Addressing the media on Sunday, Malta coach Pietro Ghedin said “We will try to do better. Of course, we need to discard the bad performance in the last 20 minutes of our game against England. It depends on our condition… if we are in good condition, we can do well, if not we will encounter problems.2

“I trust my players. I spoke with them and they want to get back on the pitch in good shape and with the right attitude to give as much as they can.”

Ghedin is well aware that it will be another difficult match as Scotland are challenging for the runner-up spot and they played really well in the last three games.

Ryan Fenech said “Hampden Park is part of history. For us it will be a huge game. It will be an honour to play in this stadium but we are not here on holiday. We obviously respect Scotland, we know we’re not up to that level but we will try to make it as hard as possible and maybe gain a result.”

“After a loss, it’s always difficult to pick up but the 4-0 result doesn’t reflect the performance of our team. We were under pressure all the time but we knew England were going to do that. Tomorrow’s game is different. We know Scotland are tough to beat… physically they are very strong. We are expecting tough a match but obviously our job as players is to give our 100 per cent and try to get something from the match.”

Despite the return of Alfred Effiong after serving a one-match ban, Ghedin is not expected to make any changes. Joseph Zerafa is still not fully fit and the Malta coach is expected to make a last minute decision on handing him or Clayton Failla a start.

Hogg should start in goal with Magri, Agius and Muscat as central defenders, Borg and Zerafa/Failla on the flanks, Pisani, Kristensen and Fenech in midfield with Schembri supporting Farrugia in attack.

This will be the seventh clash between Malta and Scotland but only the second one on Scottish soil after Scotland defeated Malta 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier in February 1993. Scotland won four out of the other five matches – the other one ending in a 1-1 draw.

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