Agius hopes title triumph can spur team to Double-Double Published on: 08-05-2019

Valletta vs Hibernians

Only four days have passed since that epic title decider between Valletta and Hibernians which saw the Citizens secure their 25th league title, that the two giants of Maltese football will square against each other
once more in the final quarter-final of the FA Trophy at the National Stadium this evening (kick-off: 6.30pm).
Saturday’s match had everything one dreams of in a football match with Valletta holding the edge in the end after prevailing in a penalty shoot-out after the match had ended in a 2-2 draw after extra-time.
Surely, such a draining and hard-fought encounter will surely have had some negative effect on the physical condition of both sets of players who are preparing for another fierce battle.
Gilbert Agius, the Valletta coach, admitted that this evening’s match may not carry the same level expectation of last weekend’s match that had the league title on the line but says that they will still go out for the win as they are to still hungry to win bring more silverware at the club.
“Winning the league championship was a huge psychological lift for Valletta FC players and coaches as being crowned champions is always the top objective at our club,” the Valletta coach told the Times
of Malta yesterday.
“Now, our focus is on the FA Trophy as it’s an honour that we always want to win and it gives us the opportunity of reaching another unprecedented milestone in Maltese football as I can’t remember of a team
who managed to complete a league and cup double in successive seasons.
“It will not be easy as we first have to overcome a Hibs team who have already show how competitive they are throughout the league campaign. Added to that the other three teams in the competition, Gżira
United, Balzan and Birkirkara are desperate to win the Trophy as would enabledthem to either win their first major honour or qualify to European football.”
The Valletta coach admitted that he faces a major headache to name his starting formation as he must contend with a growing list of players who are carrying out injuries. Added to that he must do without wingback Joseph Zerafa who serves the second of a three-match ban. Oman forward Raed Saleh
is back in contention after skipping the championship decider through suspension.
“I still have to see the condition of my players,” said Agius when asked on his team
selection for tonight.

“We came into the match with several players who were carrying injuries. After Saturday’s match, the condition of these players needs to be monitored so we have to wait until the last minutes to see who is
available or not.
“But, whoever takes the pitch will surely do everything he can to honour the colours of Valletta FC.”
While Valletta have been on cloud nine during the last few days, the same cannot be said of Hibernians who are still coming to terms with the disappointment of missing out on the league title.
Jesmond Abela, the Hibs Team Manager, told the Times of Malta that it’s not easy for the Paolites to put behind them Saturday’s disappointment but said he hopes his players will turn their heartache of missing out on the title to put up an even stronger showing against Valletta.
“Losing the league title in that fashion was a big blow for us,” Abela said. “I can only laud our players who managed to arrive to this title decider against all odds. We have no recriminations as all the players gave everything they had and deserve all the credit.
“Now we are putting all our energy on the match against Valletta and will do everything we can to reach the semi-finals.
I hope that we can use that disappointment in the right way but it will not be easy as we will not be able to count on our best players due to either injury or suspension but we’ll see what happens.”
Abela’s concerns on the players’ availability is due to the fact that the Paolites will be without central defender Andrei Agius and wing back Isaac Ntow who will be serving suspension.
Injury problems
Serbian goalkeeper Marko Jovicic could miss out on the tie after picking up an injury last Saturday while there are also concerns on Brazilian defender Marcelo Barbosa and striker Thiago Fonseca.
The winner of this semi-final will take on Gżira United and Abela admitted that whoever will prevail in today’s quarter-final could find himself at a disadvantage against the Maroons on Sunday having gone through two physically-demanding matches in the space of four days, leaving the winners with a poor physical condition.
“For both Valletta and Hibs, to reach the FA Trophy final will be quite a feat given how the fixtures have panned out,” Abela said.
“Being involved in the title decider has put both teams in a scenario that sees them play three matches in the space of a week and that could be an advantage for Gżira who will surely be at an advantage.
“But I’m not looking for alibis and I can assure our fans that we will do everything we can to try and cap what has been a very positive season by winning the FA Trophy.”