Malta’s 2022/23 UEFA Nations League campaign continues at home as Devis Mangia’s men welcome Estonia to the Ta’Qali National Stadium.
Unlike some previous editions of the tournament, the Maltese Group D2 campaign got off to a flying start.
Indeed, two second-half goals away to FIFA’s worst-ranked San Marino ensured a comfortable 2-0 win (via The Malta Independent).
But in a three-side group, Malta have less room for mistakes than usual.
Estonia’s visit to Ta’ Qali is the first of only two home matches Mangia’s team will play.
With momentum on their side following plain sailing against the continental whipping boys, the Falcons will have top to secure a long-awaited escape from League D.
Unlike Malta, Estonia’s wings got clipped in their most recent outing.
Inspired by Lionel Messi’s stellar showing, CONMEBOL powerhouse Argentina brushed the Blueshirts aside by a 5-0 scoreline.
After going winless in the inaugural Nations League campaign (D3, L3), Malta improved in the last edition of the tournament.
However, despite claiming two victories from six matches, they had to settle for a runner-up finish to the Faroe Islands (D3, L1).
They will hope to do one better in the current cycle, and their home form in 2022 could inspire that bid. In fact, Football Today and other football news sites are backing Malta to top their group in League D this year, although a lot will depend on the games this week.
Malta won their opening two home friendlies this calendar year without conceding before slipping to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Venezuela last time out.
Though this will be their first home meeting with Estonia in five years, the Falcons can take confidence from keeping a clean sheet in both previous H2Hs on home turf (W1, D1).
Like Malta, Estonia eased past San Marino in their Group D2 curtain-raiser, cruising to a landslide 2-0 victory on home soil.
But playing away from home has often proved daunting for the Estonians.
They have not only lost their last four matches on foreign soil, but they have netted just once in five road trips.
Estonia’s hopes of landing an immediate return to League C will hinge on their ability to arrest a run of consecutive scoring blanks in competitive games against Malta.
Yet, based on the Blueshirts’ flat performances on the road, Malta should feel safe and sound in Ta’ Qali.
After coming off the bench to score against San Marino, attacking-midfielder Jan Busuttil will stake his claim for a place in the starting line-up.
Meanwhile, captain Steve Borg should form a defensive trident with fellow companions Enrico Pope and Jean Borg.
As for Estonia, Robert Kirss should lead the line after scoring his international breakthrough against San Marino.
The 27-year-old will have support from the nation’s long-serving stalwart Konstantin Vassiljev, who already has 141 international appearances under his belt.
Malta Potential Starting XI
(3-4-1-2): Henry Bonello; Enrico Pepe, Steve Borg, Jean Borg; Joseph Mbong, Matthew Guillaumier, Brandon Paiber, Adam Magri Overend; Jan Busuttil; Jurgen Degabriele, Alexander Satariano.
Estonia Potential Starting XI
(3-5-2): Karl Jakob Hein; Marten Kuusk, Karol Mets, Joonas Tamm; Sergei Zenjov, Vladislav Kreida, Konstantin Vassiljev, Mattias Kait, Vlasiy Sinyavskiy; Robert Kirss, Erik Sorga.
Malta vs Estonia Prediction
Both sides have based their recent success on flying out of the traps and subsequently keeping things tight at the back.
We expect the side to get on the scoresheet first to claim all three points