Preview: Day 18 Valletta vs Balzan Published on: 03-02-2018

The 2017-18 BOV Premier League title race could reach a decisive phase this weekend when leaders
Balzan take on nearest challengers Valletta at the National Stadium tomorrow (kick-off:4pm).
Balzan are currently in the driving seat in this season’s title race as the Reds are currently leading the way on 40 points, three points clear of the Citizens who have no option but to win tomorrow’s showdown to step up their chase to secure a 24th championship success in the club’s history.
The Reds head into the match with a psychological edge as they held the upper hand in the corresponding
first-round fixture when they prevailed by the odd goal in three.
Added to that, they have shown a remarkable consistency after winning nine of the last ten matches.
On the other hand, Valletta will be determined to get back to winning ways after last week’s frustrating
1-1 draw against Sliema Wanderers that ended an impressive run of five successive wins.
Speaking during a press conference at the MFA Trophies Lounge, Valletta coach Danilo Doncic talked up the importance of tomorrow’s clash for his team and is banking on his players’ experience to come out on top.
“This is a very important game for us where we need to take all three points,” the Serbian coach said.
“In Balzan we are facing a very top team who have been leading the standings for several weeks now and are equipped with some top-quality players with great experience.
“However, Valletta also boast of a very strong team with several players who have already have firsthand
experience of winning a league championship and hopefully this factor will help us to be ready for such an important match.
“Both teams know each other very well and I’m sure that we are in for a spectacular match.” Doncic himself knows well what it means to be involved in such important league clashes having been a major protagonist
in his club’s golden era in the 1990s.
The Serbian mentor is aware that defeat tomorrow could leave Valletta’s title hopes in tatters but reiterated that they will take a positive approach to the match and are planning to attack Balzan right from the kick-off.
“I have always been a very positive person, both as a player and as a coach, and it never crosses my mind that I could lose a match as I always do all I can to go on the pitch and take the three points,” the former St Andrews coach said.
“I am really pleased with the work-ethic of my players during training this week and I feel that there is a lot of promise in my team.
“ The team’s second-half performance against Sliema Wanderers was very encouraging and we plan to retain the same approach of pressing our opponents up the park and play aggressive attacking football from the first minute and hopefully that will reward us with the three points.”
Doncic cannot field his strongest squad tomorrow as defender Steve Borg is ruled out with a one-match ban but otherwise he has no selection problems.
Balzan too are without two key players as goalkeeper Ivan Janjusevic and midfielder Ryan Fenech are both ruled out by injury.
Marco Micovic, the Balzan coach, refused to label tomorrow’s match against Valletta as a title decider as he believes that there is still a long way to go in this year’s race.
“I agree that the match against Valletta is very important but for me it carries the same significance of the other matches as at the end of the day there are three points at stake,” Micovic said.
“It’s true that a win against Valletta would put us six points clear but there are still another seven matches to go and the only way to win the league title is to be consistent week in week out.
“ This is a match that brings against each other two excellent teams who play attacking football and hopefully we can provide a treat to the fans who will come to the National Stadium.”
Having a three-point advantage over their nearest rivals many would argue that for Balzan a draw would also suit them as it would keep their rivals at arm’s length but the Serbian coach does not share the same philosophy.
“Balzan have only one mindset ahead of any match… to go out and take the three points,” the former Red Star mentor said.
“I am not settling for a point and I would like to win the match with a good performance. We don’t really know how to play any way other than trying to score goals.
“The fact that we have a threepoint advantage doesn’t mean that we will adopt a defensive approach. We will play our normal game based on a high possession rate and try to dictate the tempo of the match.
“Valletta are a very strong team but we have to impose our game to ensure that we return home with the right result.”

Source - times of malta