Preview: Europa League Valletta vs HSK Zrinjski Published on: 02-08-2018

Danilo Doncic has warned his Valletta players that they cannot afford any lapses of concentration against Zrinskji Mostar as the Malta champions look to book their place in the third qualifying round of the Europa League this evening at the Centenary Stadium. (kick-off: 6pm).

A Mario Fontanella injury-time goal handed the Citizens a precious 1-1 draw in last week’s opening leg in Mostar and a clean sheet in tonight’s second leg will ensure that proceed to a thirdqualifying round clash with either Bulgarian side Ludogorets or Vidi, of Hungary.

Since taking charge of Valletta last December, Doncic has always based on the philosophy that attack was the best form of defence.

However, the Serbian is fully aware that they will be facing a top quality team in Zrinskji and said that Valletta needed to be at their best if they are to progress.

“Coming away with a 1-1 draw against a quality side like Zrinskji was a massive boost for us,” Doncic said. “Honestly, before the first leg I never believed that my team could play at an even par with Zrinskji. The reason for that was not because I didn’t’believe in my players but because I knew well that we were going to face a team who can play top level football.

“We are playing against a team who won the championship in Bosnia which is surely superior to our Premier League.

“But once again my players have played out of their skin. They worked really hard in preseason and their efforts are reflected in the excellent condition the team is at the moment.

“There is still 90 minutes to play and although we start with a small advantage we have still a lot of work to do and we need to play a perfect match if we are to secure a famous qualification.”

The Valletta coach said that his players need no reminding of how important keeping their focus for 90 minutes will be if they are to reach the next round.

In their Champions League qualifier against Albania’s FK Kukesi, Valletta were minutes away from reaching the second qualifying round when leading the return leg at the Centenary Stadium 1-0.

However, their hopes were shattered when a lapse in concentration in stoppage time handed the Albanians the equaliser that put them through to the next round.

“Our Champions League heartache against Kukesi is still fresh in our minds and surely the players know that lapses in concentration in defence will be severely punished,” Doncic said.

“We are playing against a very strong opponent and we need to be ready. Zrinskji have shown last week how dangerous they are when pushing forward. They have some really high quality forwards and we need to keep them quiet for the whole 90 minutes.

“If we do that then we have a good chance to get a positive result.”

Fitness doubt

Valletta’s cause is not helped by the fitness of two key defenders in Doncic’s squad. Steve Borg and Enmy Pena Beltre are struggling to win their fitness battle and be involved in today’s match.

“I am a bit concerned by the situation of both Enmy and Steve Borg,” the Serbian coach said.

“They are two very important players for us and it will be difficult for us to cope without them. We still have another training session and I hope that we can recover them for the match.

“If not I’m sure that whoever will come in will be fully motivated to do a good job.

“What I’m sure of is that we are set for a very difficult 90 minutes and I hope that the Valletta fans will again turn up in big numbers to help the players in what is a very important match for our club.” 

Source - Times of Malta