Preview Day 2: Valletta vs Sliema W Published on: 28-08-2015

Valletta and Sliema Wanderers are treating their first meeting of the Premier League as an ideal test to gauge their potential as the two sides go head-to-head in tonight’s main match at the National Stadium.

The Citizens and the Blues had a contrasting start to the 2015-16 campaign.

In fact, while Valletta coasted to a comfortable 3-0 win over St Andrew’s, a weakened Sliema side finished at the wrong end of a 2-0 defeat to Tarxien Rainbows.

City coach Paul Zammit was understandably pleased to see his team showing pro-gress and powering to a trouble-free win over the league newcomers but he is aware that far more demanding tests await his team, starting tonight against the Blues.

Zammit said: “A win on the opening day is always important but that was just the start. St Andrew’s produced a decent challenge but Sliema will be a different proposition so this will give us a better indication of our true potential.

“Sliema lost their opening match and that makes them extra motivated to bounce back immediately. They will have a few key players back in the side and they’ve also added some new players so it will interesting to see where we can go after this match.

“This will be a real test for both teams.”

Zammit has no injury problems and he can also bank on new signing Albert Bruce, the Ghana midfielder who joined the Citizens on a two-year deal in midweek.

Midfielder Shaun Bajada, 32, is still part of the squad but could leave the club before the transfer deadline with reports saying his likely option being G─žajnsielem.

Zammit has effected several changes to his squad this summer as he looks to put the Citizens back among the leading challengers for the major honours after a modest 2014-15 campaign.

He said: “Our pre-season was successful in terms of physical training and team bonding and you could see that in our match against St Andrew’s.

“At Valletta, we are trying to build a competitive squad that can develop into a major contender. The project is still in its early stages but the indications have been very positive so far.

“The players are showing great commitment during training and that is very important to improve. I want them to extend that attitude into matches as unless we play to our strengths we don’t stand a chance when facing teams like Sliema.”

The Wanderers are coming into the match after a hectic week which saw Stephen Azzopardi taking the added role of club technical director besides being first-team coach.

He also ran the rule over three new players, Nigerian defender Benjamin Essel, midfielder Johann Bezzina, on loan from Hibs, and Kerlon, the Brazilian forward who was on trial at Birkirkara this summer.

Added to that Azzopardi is aided by the return of strikers Pedrinho, Michael Mifsud and Rafael Ledesma who missed the Blues’ previous match. However, goalkeeper Glenn Zammit and midfielder Mark Scerri are out to serve suspension.

Azzopardi said: “It was disappointing to lose against Tarxien but one has to consider that the team had too many important players missing. Also, we had no forwards available due to injury or suspension. That made our match more difficult than one could have anticipated.

“However, that loss is behind us now. For us at Sliema, the league starts with this match against Valletta.”

Azzopardi wants his players to show their true worth against a strong team.

“A positive result against Valletta will be a good starting point but it will not be easy,” he said.

“I’m expecting a very good match bet-ween two teams that adopt open play and like to attack.

“I’ve told the players this week that this is a good opportunity to show that Sliema are capable of holding our own against the top teams in the league.

“During pre-season I saw enough signs to suggest that we can be more competitive this season but now we need to show our strength when it matters most.”

Source - Times of Malta