Preview Day 29: Valletta vs Floriana Published on: 12-04-2015

For much of the past decade, Valletta have enjoyed the upperhand over Floriana but there is a genuine
belief that the Greens might finally halt their negative streak in derby clashes when the two neighbouring
clubs go head to head at the National Stadium this afternoon (kick-off 4pm).

At this time last season, Valletta were on a strong run that eventually propelled them to the league title at the expense of Birkirkara while Floriana were fighting to retain their top-flight status after slipping into the Relegation Pool.

The circumstances are different this time around. While Valletta still start favourites, given that they are eight points ahead of the Greens in the table, Floriana, unbeaten in their last nine games, are challenging for a top-four finish.

Valletta coach Ivan Zammit knows that derby duels elicit strong emotions among the fans but he’s confident that his experienced players can handle the pressure. “Most of our players have been around for a long time and they know what it’s like to play in a derby,” Zammit told The Sunday Times of Malta.

“From the coaching side, we have never put any pressure on the players, not even before that famous game against Hibernians. “We’ve been trying to do things during the week to create an ideal environment as we also want our players to enjoy themselves while conducting training.

“We’re focusing on the atmosphere and I think we’re doing quite well. “This is largely thanks to the
efforts of the players... if it weren’t for them, I don’t think we would be in third place right now.

“It goes without saying that the game against Floriana is very important. “It’s a special occasion for the
fans but many are not coming to support us lately and that hurts us a lot. They should not forget that
this same team won them the double last season.”

Zammit needs no reminding that Floriana will be determined to claim the derby spoils but that has done nothing to tarnish his faith in his players.

“Floriana want to do well and their coach will demand the best from his players,” Zammit said. “They believe in themselves but we also believe in our capabilities. We have a strong team with talented Maltese players while the few foreigners we can rely on are also doing a good job.

“We are certainly motivated to win the game. “These days, you can win or lose against anyone but if we are on top of our game, we should have no problems.”

Captain Ryan Fenech and Ryan Camilleri are set to return for Valletta after missing the last-gasp
victory over Naxxar Lions due to injuries.

Also, striker Lateef Elford-Alliyu is making progress in his recovery from injury and could make the
squad today. Injury worries Floriana coach Giovanni Tedesco can’t send out his best XI today as
midfielder Clyde Borg picked up an injury in the 3-1 victory over Żebbuġ Rangers and defender Douglas
Cobo is suspended.

Tedesco is also concerned about the fitness of young midfielder Conor Borg who missed last weekend’s game but defender Steve Bonnici is available for selection after completing his rehabilitation
from injury.

The Greens’ transformation from relegation strugglers to Europa League contenders is testament
to Tedesco’s work as well as the input of club president Riccardo Gaucci who took over the reins of the club last season.

Today’s derby is arguably Floriana’s biggest test this season as, apart from the ferocious rivalry, Valletta are still one of the best teams in the Premier League. Tedesco is wary of Valletta’s threat but also warned that Floriana have matured as a team after a difficult start to the season.

“This is going to be a very difficult game against a great side but we have come a long way since the
start of the season,” Tedesco said. “We are a different team with more experience and a sound technical background. We know that the match will be tough for us but the same applies to Valletta.

“This is the message we’ve been trying to transmit to the squad.” Although Tedesco has the utmost respect for Valletta, he has no intention of ditching his attacking philosophy.

“We’re paying a lot of attention to detail in our preparations,” Tedesco said. “I intend to play with three forwards, also because in our situation, a draw or defeat would serve for nothing. We have to try and
win every game if we want to qualify for Europe.”

Tedesco believes Valletta’s strength lies in the quality of their local players. “The ones in the national team are all strong,” Tedesco said. “Valletta have a few top-class players. Briffa and Fenech are always dangerous... they can decide a match at any moment.” Previous results: Valletta vs Floriana 2-0, 4-1.

Source - Times of