Preview: Europa League Valletta vs FC Utrecht Published on: 13-07-2017

Zoran Popovic will face his first major test since taking charge of Valletta as the Serbian coach leads the Citizens against Dutch side FC Utrecht in the Europa League second qualifying round first leg at the Hibs Stadium this evening (kick-off: 7.30pm).
Valletta met little trouble in disposing of Folgore in the first qualifying round of the competition after two straight victories over the San Marino outfit for a 3-0 aggregate win.
However, today Valletta have a completely different task awaiting them as they are up against an FC Utrecht side who are looking to reach the group stages of the UEFA competition.
Contacted by the Times of Malta yesterday, Popovic said Valletta are bracing themselves for a very difficult match but was confident his players will make life difficult
for their opponents. “This will be a testing match for me personally since I took charge as coach at Valletta FC,” Popovic said.
“Utrecht are a formidable side, very professional with players at the top-level of the game so we know we have a difficult task awaiting us.
“But I also told the boys that this tie will be a perfect opportunity for them to grow and develop their talents.

Hopefully we can 
give a good account of ourselves, starting with this opening leg in front of our fans.”
Popovic has the same group of players that featured in the first qualifying round with defender Jonathan Caruana still ruled out through suspension while Rowen Muscat is continuing his rehabilitation from a knee injury.
Utility man Roderick Briffa has shown steady improvement on his match-fitness and is in contention to start.
Utrecht are here with their strongest side. This week, they also completed the signing of former Milan and Ajax winger Urby Emanuelson and defender Dario Dumic, who last season was on the books of NEC Nijmegen.
Utrecht have also signed Simon Makienok. He played for Palermo in the Serie A in 2016-17.
“Utrecht are among the leading teams in the Dutch league,” Popovic said.
“Last season, they finished fourth and this time they have strengthened their squad with Emanuelson and they have also brought in Simon Makienok who played in the Italian league last season.
“For this match, we have no plans to change our style of game.
Valletta have never been a team who liked to defend and that will not change this time and we’ll venture forward each time we’ll find a way through.
“I have watched Utrecht play and we have worked tactically with the players to try and find some weaknesses in their style of play and hopefully it will work.”
Popovic confirmed that Valletta are trying to strengthen their squad and are currently giving a trial to Oman midfielder Raed Ibrahim Saed.
The 25-year-old has been capped 60 times by his country and has joined the Valletta squad for training this week.
Medical tests
“I know Raed Ibrahim Saed personally from my time as coach in Oman. He is a very interesting player and could be a great addition to our team,” Popovic said.
“The first indications look very positive and I am very optimistic.
But we are not ready to make any rush decisions. “In the next two days the player will undergo medical tests and if everything goes well he could be registered next week.
“We want to make sure that we reach the start of the season with a competitive squad and I’m optimistic
that with the arrival of two foreign players and the return of Jonathan Caruana and Rowen Muscat we will have a team capable of challenging for the title.”

Source - Times of Malta