Preview: Day 12 Valletta vs Floriana Published on: 24-11-2017

The great sporting rivalry that exists between Valletta and Floriana will be reignited this weekend when the two neighbouring sides go head-to-head in a top-of-thetable clash at the National Stadium (kick-off: 4pm) on Sunday.

There’s no love lost between Valletta and Floriana and the upcoming showdown will have added value with the final result likely to leave a bearing on the title aspirations of either side.

At present, just one point separates Valletta, who are sharing top spot with Gżira United and Balzan on 24 points, from Floriana, the only unbeaten side in the league, so the stakes will be sky-high to set up another intriguing encounter between these two giants of Maltese football.

Giovanni Tedesco, the Floriana coach, described the derby as a completely different fixture to the others in the championship. “The atmosphere before such matches against Valletta is different to other matches,” the former Palermo tactician told the Times of Malta yesterday.

“In these kind of matches, team tactics don’t matter. It’s the determination, heart and pride the players show on the pitch that can lead a side to victory.

“For us this is an important occasion for our title ambitions and I hope that the players produce the same level of performance of recent weeks so that we can prolong our streak of positive results and remain in touch with the front runners.”

Tedesco has a full squad available for Sunday with the only absentee being Jurgen Pisani who is still recovering from a long-term knee injury.

Last weekend, Floriana bridged the gap with the league front-runners when they edged past Sliema Wanderers 1-0.

On the other hand, Valletta could not break down a resolute Ħamrun Spartans side and had to settle for a goalless draw.

However, Tedesco is not reading too much into Valletta’s mini slipup against Ħamrun and is expecting a strong reaction from his players.

“You cannot judge a team’s form on just one result,” Tedesco said. “The Premier League this season is really balanced with seven teams almost at the same level so I’m not surprised if the so-called top teams drop points along the way.

“Valletta have several players who form the backbone of the national team so we need to be ready for them.

“I urging the players rise to the occasion as this is a big test of our title ambitions.”

Zoran Popovic heads into his first derby as a Valletta coach under a little bit of pressure after City’s failure to beat Ħamrun last week.

The Serbian is no novice to the Valletta-Floriana derby having been at the helm of the Greens between 2008 and 2010 but he is fully focused on his team against his former employers.

“There is great respect between Valletta and Floriana but it’s no secret that the two clubs don’t like each other,” Popovic said.

“Really, I’m not feeling any extra pressure for this weekend as I thrive on big occasions.

“These matches are for big players who have the opportunity to showcase their talent and I hope that on Sunday my team really shows its real strength.

“The fans are expecting a lot from us and we are doing everything we can to reach this match in the best possible shape.”

Popovic is boosted by the return of Joseph Zerafa, the wing-back who has missed the Ħamrun match with to serve suspension.

Moreover, Brazilian Romeo Romao is back in the fray after recovering from a foot surgery. Both Valletta and Floriana boast a great defensive record this season and Popovic is expecting a very tight match.

“Floriana are very dangerous opponents,” he reckoned.

“They are tough to break down and it’s no surprise for me that they are still the only team without a defeat. Perhaps, one advantage they have on us is that their players have been together for three or four years now and are very experienced.
Also, we must be very cautious in set-pieces because they can be lethal.
“I think it will be a very tight match and the team that scores first is likely to emerge winners.
“I just hope that the Valletta fans will be again behind us as their backing is crucial for us to get the three points.” 

Source - Times of Malta