Valletta hot-shot Falcone out for up to four weeks Published on: 16-07-2016

Valletta will fly to Serbia today without their leading striker after Federico Falcone was ruled out of the Champions League game against Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) with a quad injury.

Falcone pulled up as he was chasing a ball late in the first half of the first leg of Valletta’s Champions League second qualifying round tie against Red Star on Tuesday.

The Argentinian powerhouse, who has scored in all three of the Champions League games played by Valletta this season, is expected to be out for up to four weeks after a scan revealed a small tear in his quad.

Falcone, who played a starring role in Valletta’s BOV Premier League title success last season after joining the club in August, had been the team’s stand-out performer in the game against Red Star before injury curtailed his participation. He was replaced by fellow countryman Santiago Malano, a playmaker who is short of optimal fitness as he only started training with the Citizens a couple of weeks ago.

The 26-year-old had put the Citizens ahead after just 15 minutes with a delightful volley and had a goal wrongly disallowed after television replays showed that Falcone was on-side when he latched on to Jhonnattann’s pass.

Falcone’s enforced exit deprived Valletta of their focal point in attack, and his absence was sorely felt in the second half as Red Star scored twice to pull off a 2-1 victory.

Red Star are now hot favourites to seal qualification when they host Valletta in the second leg on Tuesday (kick-off 8.30pm) and set up a meeting with the winners of the match between Bulgaria’s Ludogorets Razgrad and Mladost Podgorica, of Montenegro, in the third qualifying round of the Champions League. Ludogorets have a 2-0 lead from the home leg.

Valletta, who advanced to the second qualifying round of the Champions League on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw against B36 Torshavn of Faroe Islands, are also hoping to receive the all-clear from UEFA to add newly-signed Lithuanian goalkeeper Dziugas Bartkus to their squad for Tuesday’s game.

Paul Zammit, the Valletta coach, delved back into the transfer market to bring in a goalkeeper as Nicky Vella requires cruciate surgery which will keep him out of action for a number of months.

Bartkus, 26, played for Gornik Leczna, in Poland’s top division, last season.