Malta will be all out to claim the three points on Saturday as the national team takes Andorra in another match from Group D1 of the UEFA Nations League at the National Stadium, kick-off at 15:00.
Lying in second place, five points behind the Faroe Islands, Malta could close in on the leaders should they fail to beat Latvia in Riga later on Saturday. Malta and the Faroe Islands will be then cross swords on Tuesday at Ta’ Qali in the final match from the League D1.
Photo: Copyright domenic aquilina/MFA
The team led by Devis Mangia is coming from a series of five consecutive positive results and four clean sheets. In fact, after the narrow 3-2 defeat to the Faroe Islands in Torhsavn, Malta earned its first point in the group thanks to a 1-1 draw with Latvia at Ta’ Qali in September. Last month, Malta defeated Gibraltar in a friendly match at home before obtaining four points from two away clashes – a goalless draw with Andorra and a dramatic 1-0 win against Latvia. Last Wednesday, Malta defeated Liechtenstein 3-0 in a friendly match.
Addressing a press conference on Friday, national team head coach Devis Mangia said “I believe we did a good job. We know what we have to do. It is important to be focussed and passionate in this game. We have to try to play our football. In Andorra, we did some mistakes from a technical point of view and on Saturday, it is important that we play fast and avoid technical mistakes. But I think the players are focussed and well-prepared for this game.”
In Andorra La Vella, the Maltese held the initiative but were unable to penetrate the Andorran rear-guard as they adopt a defensive approach, trying to operate on counter-attacks. Despite being constantly on the receiving end in their first game against Latvia in Riga, they managed to earn a point in a draw. At home against the Faroe Islands, they lost by just one goal before they held Malta in a goalless draw last month. They lost the other match to the Faroe Islands in Torshavn 2-0.
“I think that it is good that if we push a team to stay back and we have the control the game. I think this is a good signal. The difference is that we have to find more solutions. They obtained two draws and when they played home with Faroe Islands they were very close to get another draw because the game was difficult for Faroe Islands. That is usually their style. We have to find a solution to find a possibility to score. I am sure that with the attitude, approach and the performance we will play a good game. “
Knowing that the clash between Malta and the Faroe Islands could prove to be decisive for winning the group, some may think that one should shift the focus on Tuesday’s game but first and foremost Malta has to win on Saturday, hoping that the Faroe Islands fail to win in Latvia.
“I have intelligent players. They know what we did well and what we did not do so well in the other game, what we have to do and what we surely have to avoid as the most important thing is the approach and I want to repeat that we have to be 100% focussed on this game.”
For Saturday’s games, Henry Bonello should start in goal. On the other hand, options at the back are quite limited due to the absence of Zach Muscat, Steve Borg and Jean Borg. The three central defenders should therefore be Kurt Shaw, Andrei Agius and Triston Caruana.
Joseph Mbong and Ryan Camenzuli should play on the flanks with Teddy Teuma and Matthew Guillaumier in midfield.
Up front, Mangia confirmed that Luke Montebello will start. He will be supported by Luke Gambin and possibly Jake Grech, in the absence of Paul Mbong.
Saturday’s game against Andorra will be fourth clash between the two teams. The three previous encounters all ended in draws as apart from last month’s 0-0 draw in Andorra La Vella, in 2000 and 2002, Andorra took part in the Malta International Tournament with both matches ending in 1-1 draws.