Preview day 26: Valletta vs Sliema W Published on: 05-03-2016

News that Sliema Wanderers will be shorn of Gary Muir, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Denni and Mandinho,
all suspended, for their daunting clash with leaders Valletta tomorrow, will be perceived as a boost for the leaders but coach Paul Zammit was quick to play down suggestions that this will make his team’s task easier.
“Although Sliema have lost some players, I still believe that they can rely on adequate replacements,”
Zammit told Times of Malta.
“Sliema have a valid squad and the biggest mistake we can make is to think that our job has become
easier because they have some players missing.
“We will stick with our game-bygame approach. While we do analyse our opponents thoroughly to prepare for the impending challenge in the best way possible, we like to focus a lot on ourselves.”
It has been a very productive week for Valletta as their 4-0 rout of Naxxar Lions and Hibs’ 1-1 draw
against Sliema gave them a four-point advantage at the top.
With eight games left, the Citizens are in a strong position to win the championship but, as is his wont, Zammit warned that all the title candidates are prone to drop points in the remaining fixtures.
“I’ve made it clear to my players that we need to concentrate on our games,” Zammit said. “We began the third round in first place and the other teams are chasing us.
“What happened on the third day of the final phase (when Hibs, Balzan and Birkirkara dropped points) could easily happen again in the coming weeks and results could affect us in a negative manner.
“At this crucial stage of the season, the fixtures have more weight. Games can prove decisive because
teams in certain positions can drop points.”
Zammit has been assessing the physical condition of his players after Valletta played two games in
four days over the past week. Defenders Jonathan Caruana and Ryan Camilleri are recovering
from influenza while Rafael Ledesma and Abdelkarim Nafti are suffering from slight fatigue but are
likely to be available for tomorrow’s match.
Lateral defenders Ian Azzopardi and Romeu Romao are in line for a squad recall after recuperating from
Sliema coach Alfonso Greco has no option but to reshuffle his pack after Muir, Gatt Baldacchino, Denni, who scored the equaliser against Hibs, and Mandinho were handed a one-match ban for four
cautions yesterday.
Nigerian forward Saviour Fidelis is doubtful after picking up an injury in the 2-2 draw against Floriana
but Cameroonian winger Njongo Priso could face Valletta his former club, after seeing out his
two-match ban.
“Pity that we have four player suspended because the team has been playing well,” Greco said.
“But these things are normal in football.
“Now we will decide how we can replace the absent players.” Greco has overseen two draws, against Floriana and Hibernians, after caretaker coach Ivan Woods had steered the Blues to a 1-0 win over Tarxien Rainbows following the sacking of Stephen Azzopardi.
The Italian, who is in his second spell in charge of the Wanderers, said the team’s target for the
remainder of the season was to maintain a steady improvement.
“As I said before, we are trying to improve and set our objectives on a game-by-game basis,” Greco
“It’s all about trying to motivate the players to always aim higher. “This will be another tough game
and we certainly need to play with a lot of intensity if we are to gain something from it.”
Greco was pleased with Sliema’s cohesive performance against Hibs but less so with the defensive blunders that gifted Hibs two glaring openings in the final stages of the game.
“The last two games have shown that the team’s performances are getting better but against Hibs, we
gave away two opportunities that almost cost us the match.”
Valletta are a different proposition from last season after overhauling their squad last summer but
Greco, who returned to coach Sliema last month, has been impressed by their attacking potential.
“I’ve only seen Valletta a few times this season,” Greco, who was in charge of Żebbuġ Rangers last
year, said.
“However, they have signed some important players and up front, the likes of Jhonnattann, Nafti
and Falcone can decide the game on their own.”
Sliema’s performance against Valletta is likely to come under increased scrutiny after their showing against Hibs but Greco insisted that his team will adopt the same approach for tomorrow’s game.
“It goes without saying that we will be giving our all to get a result,” Greco stressed. “Our intention is to reproduce our display against Hibs in the game against Valletta.”
Previous results: Valletta vs Sliema Wanderers 1-0, 4-2.

Source - Times of Malta