Gzira United will be aiming for a positive result as they host Glentoran FC of Northern Ireland in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League at the Centenary Stadium on Thursday, kick-off at 19:00.
Despite a third-place finish in the BOV Premier League last season, the Maroons are currently in a transitional period following the departure of a number of key players like Luke Tabone, Nikolai Muscat, Steve Pisani, Maxuell Samurai and Jefferson de Assis, among others.
The club, on the other hand, signed central defenders Farid Romero and Carlos Chaba, midfielder Hasan Gomda, attacking midfielder Wilkson and forward Ryan Essaka.
Speaking on Tuesday, coach Darren Abdilla said “Preparation was not easy due to the several changes in the squad. However when one cycle ends, another one begins. We have a new squad …. eight of the players who formed part of last year’s squad are no longer with us. In fact, the only one from the typical starting line-up in last year’s UEFA commitments who is still with us is Marcelo Dias. The other players are new … most of them will be making their debut in UEFA competitions. There is therefore an element of lack of experience.”
“I was satisfied with the pre-season. We worked hard, physically and tactically. It was not easy since new players would need to get used to our system. However, I have faith in the players that could perform well. Although the squad lacks depth, we are happy with the players at our disposal.”
“We should consider this first leg as the ‘first half’. We need to be still in the game for the ‘second half’. We need to be cautious and get a positive result. We will not risk all to try to win the game,” said the Gzira coach.
“Glentoran also went through some changes. They have a new coach and some new players. We are expecting a physical game. They play the British style of football – physical and direct football and I am sure it will be a well-contested game.”
“We are optimistic. The atmosphere within the squad is serene and we are confident that we did what we could to try to achieve a positive result.”
Darren Abdilla could not rely on his best formation as Gabriel Bohrer Mentz is ruled out injured while Zach Scerri serves a one-match ban.
Last year, Gzira had a great run in Europe after eliminating Atletic Club d’Escaldes and Radnicki Nis, losing only to Wolfsberger in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League.
Glentoran Football Club is a professional football club, based in East Belfast. The club was founded in 1882 and have since won more than 130 major honours, making them one of the most successful football clubs in the world. This includes 23 championships, 23 Irish Cups, 7 League Cups and 2 Charity Shields.
However, although they have been participating in European football since 1962/63 and reached the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners Cup in 1973/74, in recent years, they never went beyond the second qualifying round.
Last season, Glentoran placed third in the league, nine points behind champions Larne and three behind runners-up Linfield.
The second leg between Glentoran and Gzira will be played at The BetMcLean Oval on Thursday 20, kick-off at 20:30.
The winner would be facing the winner of the clash between F91 Diddeleng (LUX) and Saint Patrick’s Athletic FC (IRL). The first leg would be played at home.