Valletta coach Darren Abdilla wary of Birkirkaras threat Published on: 27-09-2019

Valletta vs Birkirkara

Valletta and Birkirkara will renew their rivalry tomorrow when they go head to head at the National Stadium tomorrow (kick-off: 3pm).

The Citizens and the Stripes gave life to an intensive rivalry over the last three decades which resulted in epic title-run ins and memorable cup finals.

Over the last three seasons, Valletta have managed to remain on the perch of Maltese football, winning the last two Premier League titles while Birkirkara have struggled to add silverware and this summer they spent big in the transfer market in their bid to get back among the main challengers for the championship crown.

Valletta and Birkirkara have had a contrasting start to the championship campaign. In fact, the Citizens, after a shocking 3-1 defeat to Sta Lucia on the opening day, have managed to recover with two wins and a draw in their last three outings.

On the other hand, Birkirkara have had a topsy-turvy start as their star-studded squad has yet to find its feet. In fact, the Stripes have only two points to show from their opening four matches which saw them suffer surprising defeats to Senglea Athletic and Floriana.

That poor start saw the club administration replace coach John Buttigieg with Dutchman Andre Paus who took charge of the team’s last two matches.

Valletta coach Darren Abdilla is wary of the threat posed by Stripes who he believes will be relishing the chance to kickstart their campaign with a win over the Malta champions.

“We’re facing a Birkirkara team who will be keen to make amendments for a difficult start to the season,” the Valletta coach said yesterday.

“In my opinion they have managed to assemble a team full of talented players who can singlehandedly decide a match but have yet to show their real potential. Surely, they will be looking at this match as the ideal scenario to kick-start their season. A win against us will surely set the ball rolling for them for the rest of the season.

“It’s important that we will be ready for what promises to be a tough match. We head into this encounter in fine fettle after our solid performance against Balzan and we’re looking forward to it.”

The Valletta coach has no fresh injury worries and is set to bank on his strongest squad with the exception of Santiago Malano who is out with a long-term knee injury. Abdilla said that the 2-0 win over Balzan last week was the perfect warm-up for this difficult test and he now expects the players to step up their level of consistency.

“The match against Balzan was a huge positive for us as the team produced a very solid display and they were always in control against a team that is set to challenge for the league title this season,” the former Gżira United coach said.

“That win was a huge moralebooster for the team and now it’s important that we build on that performance and try and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis week in week out as the title race is long and hard.

“It’s clear that the team has now recovered from the defeat to Sta Lucia and I’m confident that the team’s performances will continue to grow in the next few weeks.” Tomorrow, Valletta will be up against a former acquaintance in Andre Paus who led the Citizens to the Premier League title in season 2013-14. The Dutchman admits that facing his old club makes the match a bit special even though he admitted that he is fully focused on solving Birkirkara’s slow start to the season.

“I have great memories of my time and Valletta but come kickoff time on Saturday my full focus will be to ensure Birkirkara get the three points,” Paus said.

“The start of the season was not the best for us. The team is slowly showing signs of improvement but there is still a lot of work to be done. Normally, a coach has seven weeks in pre-season to assemble his team and work on various aspects of the game with the players but unfortunately, I didn’t have that time so we need to be patient.

“We have to take one step at a time and I’m no magician to fix everything in a short spell of time. The players are undergoing intensive session in all areas of the game and hopefully gradually it will not be long before we see the best of Birkirkara.

“Facing Valletta will be a very difficult test but I hope the players will rise to the occasion and perform as everyone expects them to do.”

Against Mosta last week, Birkirkara needed a late Miguel Alba penalty to save a point in a match which saw them dominate possession for long stretches. Paus admitted that the Stripes need to be more clinical if they are to start winning matches.

“Against Mosta we had 64 per cent of possession and created countless chances but we just managed to take a point,” the Dutchman said.

“I was pleased with our performance in the second half where we controlled the match but unfortunately we missed too many opportunities. We are working hard to try and improve in many areas but there is great determination from the players to turn the tide.”

Source: Times of Malta