UEFA Nations League: Malta face Kosovo in Pristina

Malta plays its third game in League D Group 3 of the UEFA Nations League as it faces Kosovo at the Stadiumi Fadil Vokrri in Pristina on Thursday, kick-off at 20:45.

This will be a top-bottom clash in Group D3 as Kosovo held Azerbaijan in a goalless draw in Baku and then went on to beat the Faroe Islands 2-0 in Pristina. On the other hand, Malta lost 3-1 to the Faroe Islands in Torshavn but then earned a point in a 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan at Ta’ Qali.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday Malta coach Ray Farrugia said “We have information about Kosovo, we’ve done our homework and I’m sure they did theirs. It should be an interesting match and I’m looking forward.”

“We are trying to change a few things to improve our national team and I believe we are on the right track. In a way, Kosovo are doing the same, they are also building a team but they have the advantage of picking players who have already played for other countries, like Norway and Albania. It’s going to be difficult but we’ve come here to get a result.”

Birkirkara midfielder Paul Fenech added “Pressure is normal when you are a footballer, it’s actually a positive thing to have. For us, the most important things are to stay united, compact and disciplined and if we do that, anything is possible. We can deal with the pressure, we have been in this situation many times.”

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Farrugia was unable to select his best squad as Zach Muscat is currently recovering from an injury, Joseph Zerafa is suspended after receiving two yellow cards while Luke Gambin asked not to be considered for selection to concentrate on his commitments with his English League Two club Crawley Town. However Bjorn Kristensen, Clayton Failla, Cain Attard and Jake Grech are back in squad.

“Important players are always missed but at the same time this creates an opportunity for the other players to come in and prove themselves. I’m confident that the players who will come into the team are ready. If I were them, I would do my best to show that I deserve to be in the first team,” added Farrugia.

The Malta coach is not expected to make much changes to the team which drew with Azerbaijan but with Ryan Camilleri being in doubt, Victoria Hotspurs defender Ferdinando Apap is set to start in defence while Juan Carlos Corbalan of Gżira United may also earn his first appearance.

Andrew Hogg should start in goal with Steve Borg, Andrei Agius and Ferdinando Apap at the back, Joseph Mbong and Clayton Failla on the flanks, Rowen Muscat joins Paul Fenech in midfield with Juan Corbolan possibly joining Michael Mifsud and Andre Schembri up front.

For Kosovo, this will be a match they cannot afford to lose as they target the top spot in the group. The squad selected by coach Bernard Challandes includes the experienced Valon Berisha of Lazio and goalkeeper Samir Ujkani who played for Palermo and Novara among other teams. Before Kosovo joined UEFA and FIFA, Berisha played for Norway and Ujkani for Albania.

The match will be controlled by officials from Hungary, namely referee Tamás Bognar, assistant referees Balázs Buzás and Theodoros Georgiou, additional assistant referees Ferenc Karakó and Peter Solymosi and fourth official Péter Kóbor.