After suffering a heavy 4-0 defeat in the first leg, Gzira United face a mammoth task in trying to overturn the result as they host FK Ventspils in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round at the Centenary Stadium on Thursday, kick-off at 20:00.
Buoyed by their impressive 3-1 win over Hajduk Split away from home, the Maroons were given a reality check in Latvia. A heavy defeat which hardly leaves any chance of making another comeback to reach the next stage of the competition where a clash with Jeunesse Esch of Luxembourg or Vitória SC of Portugal awaits the winner. The latter registered a narrow win in the first leg away from home.
Addressing the media on Wednesday, coach Giovanni Tedesco said he was angry with how things turned out in Latvia. He said that rather than being angry with the players, he was angry with himself, stressing there were no excuses for the performance and result.
“I assume full responsibility for the result of the first leg. We will try our best and, as president Sharlon Pace says, make the impossible possible. If we fail to make it to the next round, we will be aiming for a very good performance which would be a huge boost ahead of the Premier League campaign.”
When asked about the team’s chances, the former Floriana, Birkirkara, Palermo and Hamrun Spartans coach said that he is well aware that Gzira United were among the top teams who will challenge for honours, adding that this coming Premier League campaign should be an exciting one and one of the most difficult in recent years.
Tedesco concluded by thanking the supporters who followed the team all the way to Latvia last week.
Meanwhile Amadou Samb, who has just recovered from a long-term injury which ruled him out for almost eight months, said that he is glad to be back.
“This is a very important match. It’s a final. We want to reach the next round and to do this we will have to try from the very first minute to give our very best.”
Ventspils are currently third in the Virsliga on 31 points, ten behind leaders Riga FC and seven behind second-placed Rigas FS. Last year, they finished in the runner-up spot, four points behind champions Riga FC. In the Cup final, they lost on penalties to Riga FC.
In the 2009/10 season FK Ventspils became the first Latvian club to participate in the group stages of UEFA club competitions. They entered the Champions League where they eliminated F91 Dudelange and BATE Borisov but were eliminated in the play-offs by FC Zurich. They moved on to the UEFA Europa League where they finished fourth in a group which included Sporting CP from Portugal, Hertha BSC from Germany and Heerenveen from the Netherlands.
Last season, they took part in the UEFA Europa League where they eliminated Luftetari of Albania with an 8-3 aggregate score in the first qualifying round but lost 0-1 and 1-2 to Bordeaux in the second qualifying round.