Following an impressive 3-0 win over Cyprus, Malta will be in action once again on Saturday, facing Slovenia at the Stadion Stožice in Ljubljana, kick-off at 18:00.
This will be another difficult game against a team which is ranked 66th, compared to Malta’s 177th place. In the UEFA Nations League last year, Slovenia had a good run, finishing on top of League C Group 3, therefore securing promotion to League B with four wins and two draws.
However Malta is looking forward for more positive performances and results. The morale is sky high following the record win in a competitive game on Wednesday. This was the fifth win in fourteen matches and the ninth positive result since Devis Mangia took over as Malta coach.
Speaking about Saturday’s game coach Devis Mangia said, “This will be a completely different game, a difficult match. It is all about performance. The result is a consequence of the performance. We have to be focussed on that.”
He stressed the need that Malta as a team needs to be patient, play their game and concentrate.
“Against Cyprus, the team was so good that it looked so simple. We played a very good game. This is a different game. They are physical and like to control the game. These are the main points we have to consider. “
On Wednesday, Malta had 72% ball possession but Mangia stressed that he was more satisfied of the first forty minutes when Malta had around 62% ball possession as then it was clear that it would increase when Cyprus had a player sent off.
Asked whether the players would be able to keep their feet on the ground after the game against Cyprus, Mangia said “I do not have doubts about the attitude of the players. They will keep their feet on the ground. This is a football game. There will be moments in the game where we need to read the situation and manage the situation.”
For this game and the one that follows against Russia, Mangia named a 26-man squad which includes the returning Luke Gambin.
As explained earlier this week and as it has been the case in previous triple-headers, Mangia admitted he could make some changes to the team.
The squad is made up of:
Henry Bonello (Ħamrun Spartans) Jake Galea (No Club); Matthew Grech (Pembroke Athleta)
Andrei Agius (Hibernians); Steve Borg (Gżira United); Karl Micallef (Ħamrun Spartans); Zach Muscat (Casa Pia); Enrico Pepe (Birkirkara); Kurt Shaw (Sliema Wanderers)
Cain Attard (Birkirkara); Ryan Camenzuli (Floriana); Triston Caruana (Valletta); Juan Carlos Corbolan (Ħamrun Spartans); Joseph Essien Mbong (Ħamrun Spartans); Nicolai Muscat (Gżira United); Steven Pisani (Gżira United); Teddy Teuma (Union Saint Gilloise); Dunstan Vella (Hibernians); Dexter Xuereb (Santa Lucia); Yannick Yankam (Birkirkara)
Shaun Dimech (Valletta); Luke Gambin (Hamrun Spartans); Jake Grech (Hibernians); Paul Mbong (Birkirkara); Luke Montebello (Birkirkara); Alexander Satariano (Frosinone Calcio)
Meanwhile Cain Attard, scorer of two of the goals against Cyprus, said “After winning, the atmosphere in the dressing room is always good. But that is the past. We have to take the positives and if we go for this game with the same mentality and follow the game plan of the coach, I believe we can get a positive result.”
Cain Attard is one of the players who did not feature regularly for the team in the past but had an excellent start to the season both with Birkirkara and the national team.
“Mangia brought in a different mentality. Apart from the players who are here, there are others who aim at forming part of the national team. We have to fight for our place in the team. I worked hard to get this opportunity and made the most out of it. The atmosphere is great and we are now looking forward for this game,” concluded Attard
Photos: Copyright domenic aquilina/Malta FA
Slovenia had a perfect start in Group H after defeating neighbours Slovenia 1-0 in their first game but defeats to Russia and Cyprus away from home and a 1-1 draw with Slovakia in Ljubljana on Wednesday leave them on level points with Malta and Cyprus after four games.
On Saturday, they will be all out to return to winning ways. Slovenia defeated Malta 1-0 in February 1994 and drew 0-0 in February 1996 in two matches from the Malta International Tournament In the EURO 2004 campaign, Slovenia defeated Malta 3-0 at home and 3-1 at Ta’ Qali and in the last World Cup qualifiers, Slovenia won 1-0 at Ta’ Qali and 2-0 at home. Therefore they start as firm favourites to claim the three points.
Coach Matjaž Kek said “This will be a match in which only victory counts for us. Malta has already drawn attention to itself with a draw in Bratislava, it is clear that it is an organized team. We are prepared for a match in which we have to be more aggressive, faster, but also organized.”
The Slovenia coach stressed on the importance of focussing on this game rather than the next against Croatia.
“The match that awaits us tomorrow, brings three points. It would therefore be wrong to think about the game after that. The players’ commitment and focus is on Malta.”
Atalanta forward Josip Ilicic, who Malta coach Devis Mangia knows well from the time he used to coach Palermo, is unavailable after picking a second yellow card on Wednesday.
The match will be controlled by referee Andris Treimanis assisted by Haralds Gudermanis and Aleksejs Spasjoņņikovs and fourth official Aleksandrs Golubevs, all from Latvia and Video Assistant Referee Kevin Blom and Assistant Video Assistant Referee Dennis Higler from the Netherlands.